Analyzing The Legal Challenges To Vermont's New Gun Laws

Sep 20, 2018

Episode 4 of VPR's five-part podcast series, JOLTED, explores how Republican Gov. Phil Scott, a gun rights advocate, declared that Vermont needed more gun control laws. Within months, Senate Bill 55 was passed, putting several restrictions on gun and ammunition purchases.

Jared Carter, an associate professor at Vermont Law School and VPR commentator, joined Vermont Edition to discuss two lawsuits challenging the new law.

The first lawsuit seeks to overturn the high-capacity magazine ban. Under S.55, Vermonters are no longer allowed to purchase magazines that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Until Oct. 1, 2018, gun shops are allowed to sell off high-capacity magazines that were in inventory before the law went into effect. High-capacity magazines purchased before the ban are still legally allowed to be possessed.

The lawsuit, filed in April, argues the magazine ban falls afoul of Article 16 of the Vermont Consititution.

A second lawsuit also argues a constitutional basis for overturning S.55. This lawsuit takes aim at the law's three other provisions: increased background checks on private gun sales, a prohibition on the sale and posession of bump stocks and a raise in the minimum age at which a person can purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, with some exceptions.

Carter says there's very limited case law on gun rights and restrictions in Vermont. So these challenges are in unknown territory.

"We haven't had significant gun laws in Vermont," Carter told Vermont Edition. "So there hasn't been the opportunity to challenge them. So I think the plaintiffs, strategically, quite frankly, chose to challenge that particular portion under Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution."

The two cases are being heard in separate county courthouses in Vermont, but are expected to be appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Broadcast live on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.