Strict New Gun Laws in Vermont Raise Age to 21

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Vermont went from having some of the least restrictive gun control laws to some of the strictest. Last week, Governor Phil Scott signed three bills into law raising the age to buy firearms to 21, banning high-capacity magazines, and making it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat or keep them from buying guns in the first place.

The AP calls it "the first significant gun ownership restrictions in state history," and according to CBS, the new law may have already been used to prevent a suspected school shooter from acquiring a gun.

Change in Law

The new Vermont gun control law also expands state background checks and bans bump stocks, which are devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more rapidly. Additional measures allow law enforcement officers to prohibit gun ownership for people considered at risk of harming themselves or others, or arrested or cited for domestic assault.

"This is not the time to do what's easy," the Governor Scott said as he signed the bills into law, "it's time to do what's right."

Change of Mind

That wasn't always his stance on gun control. The New York Times notes that the day after the Parkland shooting, Scott said he saw no need for new gun laws. He changed his mind a day later, after a teenager was arrested and accused of planning a school shooting in Fair Haven.

That teenager was Jack Sawyer, who prosecutors say kept a diary called "Journal of an Active Shooter" and made detailed plans for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School. Sawyer's alleged goal was to kill more people than in any other school shooting. Sawyer remains in custody on attempted aggravated murder and other charges, and a bail hearing is set for this week.

But the judge in the case already used the new Vermont law -- passed a day prior -- to sign an extreme risk protection order finding that Sawyer poses an extreme risk of physical harm to himself and others, and prohibiting him from owning a dangerous weapon.

Vermont's new gun law might've thwarted one mass shooting, and may be used to prevent others in the future.

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