Guns in Schools in Vermont

Vermont prohibits any person from knowingly possessing a firearm within a school building or on a school bus.1 The state also prohibits any person from knowingly possessing a firearm on any school property with the intent to injure another person.2 These provisions do not apply to possession of a firearm if the board of school directors (or the superintendent or principal if delegated authority to do so by the board) authorizes possession or use for specific occasions or for instructional or other specific purposes.3 The term “school” is undefined, so it is not clear whether this term applies to colleges, universities, or other postsecondary institutions.

In Vermont, school boards must adopt and implement policies regarding students who bring a firearm to school or possess a firearm at school.4 At a minimum these policies must provide that any student who brings a firearm to school or possesses a firearm at school shall be expelled for not less than one calendar year.5 The school board may modify the expulsion on a case-by-case basis in certain circumstances.6

Technical training centers must also regulate or prohibit firearms on their premises.7

See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4004(a). ⤴︎
  2. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4004(b). ⤴︎
  3. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4004(c)(2). ⤴︎
  4. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 1166(b). ⤴︎
  5. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 1166(b)(2). ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 1577(4). The governing board’s policies must meet or exceed these same requirements of Vermont Statutes Annotated title 16, § 1166 and title 13, § 4004. ⤴︎

Guns in Vehicles in Vermont

Vermont prohibits a person from carrying or possessing a loaded rifle or shotgun while in a vehicle on a public highway.1 Long guns must be unloaded when transported in a motor vehicle. This prohibition does not apply to a licensed hunter who is a paraplegic or is otherwise certified by a physician as disabled and who obtains a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Commissioner which must be attached to the hunting license.2

 

Notes
  1. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 4705(b). ⤴︎
  2. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 4705(e). ⤴︎

Immunity Statutes in Vermont

Vermont law provides that the owner or operator of a sport shooting range, and any person lawfully using the range, who is in substantial compliance with any noise use condition of any issued municipal or state land use permit required by law shall not be subject to any civil liability for damages or any injunctive relief resulting from noise or noise pollution.1 If no municipal or state land use permit is otherwise required by law, then the owner or operator of the range and any person lawfully using the range shall not be subject to any civil liability for damages or any injunctive relief relating to noise or noise pollution.2

Vermont Statutes Annotated title 10, section 5227(d) states: “Nothing in this section shall prohibit or limit the authority of a municipality or the state to enforce any condition of a lawfully issued and otherwise required permit.” However, even when the range is found to be not in substantial compliance with a municipal or state land use permit, a nuisance claim against the range may only be brought by an owner of property abutting the range.3 Furthermore, there is a rebuttable presumption that the range does not constitute any form of nuisance if the range was established prior to the acquisition of the property owned by the person bringing the nuisance claim, and the frequency of the shooting or other alleged nuisance activity at the range has not significantly increased since that person’s acquisition of the property.4 This presumption may be rebutted only by an abutting property owner showing that “the activity has a noxious and significant interference with the use and enjoyment” of his or her property.5

See our policy page on Gun Industry Immunity for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 5227(b). ⤴︎
  2. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 5227(c). ⤴︎
  3. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 5227(e)(1). ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 5227(e)(2). ⤴︎

Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines in Vermont

In 2018, Vermont enacted legislation to generally restrict the sale, purchase, possession, manufacture, and importation of large capacity ammunition “feeding devices.”1 However, this law grandfathered possession of large capacity magazines that were lawfully possessed on or before the date the law was enacted (April 11, 2018).2 

These restrictions apply to a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept:

  • more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a long gun; or
  • more than 15 rounds of ammunition for a hand gun.3   

However, Vermont exempts certain magazines, including those manufactured or sold solely for use by a lever action or bolt action long gun, an antique firearm, or a curio or relic4 or “attached tubular devices” that are designed to accept, and only capable of operating with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.5 

See our Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4021 (enacted by 2017 VT S 55, Sec. 8. ⤴︎
  2. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4021(c)(1). ⤴︎
  3. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4021(e)(1). ⤴︎
  4. “Curio or relic” means a firearm that is of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than its association with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4021(e)(2)(C). ⤴︎
  5. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4021(e). ⤴︎

Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Vermont

Preemption Statutes

Vermont Statutes Annotated Title 24, section 2295 states:

Except as otherwise provided by law, no town, city or incorporated village, by ordinance, resolution or other enactment, shall directly regulate hunting, fishing and trapping or the possession, ownership, transportation, transfer, sale, purchase, carrying, licensing or registration of…firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or ammunition. This section shall not limit the powers conferred upon a town, city or incorporated village under section 2291(8) of this title. The provisions of this section shall supersede any inconsistent provisions of a municipal charter.

Although the title of section 2295, “Authority of municipal and county governments to regulate firearms, ammunition, hunting, fishing and trapping,” expressly includes counties, the text does not. Counties in Vermont appear to have no legislative authority and are primarily responsible for the organization of the county court system.1

Exceptions

Vermont Statutes Annotated Title. 24, section 2291(8) provides that, “[f]or the purpose of promoting the public health, safety, welfare and convenience,” a town, city or incorporated village shall have the power to “regulate or prohibit the use or discharge, but not possession of, firearms within the municipality or specified portions thereof, provided that an ordinance adopted under this subdivision shall be consistent with section 2295 of this title and shall not prohibit, reduce, or limit discharge at any existing sport shooting range, as that term is defined in section 5227 of title 10.”

Interpretation

In Hunters, Anglers & Trappers Association of Vermont v. Winooski Valley Park District, the Vermont Supreme Court held that section 2295 did not prohibit a union municipal district from banning hunting and trapping on district-owned property.2 Although section 2295 generally prohibits municipalities from directly regulating hunting and trapping, the court noted that it is limited by the clause “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law.”3 Examining a number of provisions of Vermont law, the court concluded that the legislature intended to grant a municipality the authority to manage its own property, which included the ability to ban hunting and trapping on the land.4 As a result of this intent, the conduct authorized as “otherwise provided by law” was exempt from section 2295. Although the district had initially prohibited firearm possession on its property, which would have raised questions about the application of section 2291(8), the district eliminated this ban from its policy prior to the ruling.5

In addition, the Vermont Attorney General has analyzed whether section 2295 would prevent law enforcement from conducting voluntary background checks on prospective handgun purchasers pursuant to the Brady Act.6 The Attorney General noted that section 2295 prohibits the direct regulation of “the possession, ownership, transportation, transfer, sale, purchase, carrying, licensing or registration of . . . firearms, ammunition” or their components.7 The Attorney General reasoned that, in performing a background check, law enforcement is not “directly” regulating the transaction, “but is merely determining if the transaction would violate federal law.”8 Because of this lack of “direct” regulation, the Attorney General concluded that nothing in section 2295 would prevent law enforcement from conducting a voluntary background check.9

Other Relevant Provisions

Under Vermont Statutes Annotated title 16, section 563(5), school boards have the power to regulate or prohibit firearms on school premises and must adopt and implement policies consistent with existing state law regarding students who bring firearms to or possess firearms at school.

Several Vermont cities have municipal charters that specifically grant city bodies the authority to regulate or prohibit the possession or use of firearms.10 The enforceability of such provisions is unclear in light of sections 2291(8) and 2295. In SBC Enterprises, Inc. v. City of South Burlington Liquor Control Commission, a case not involving firearms, the Supreme Court of Vermont held that a city’s charter provided sufficient authorization for the city’s entertainment ordinance.11 The court explicitly stated that it did not need to decide whether section 2291 also authorized the ordinance.12

Immunity

For information on statutes that provide shooting ranges with immunity from lawsuits, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Vermont.

Notes
  1. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 24, § 131 et seq. ⤴︎
  2. 913 A.2d 391 (Vt. 2006). ⤴︎
  3. Id. at 397. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Id. at 398-99. ⤴︎
  6. 1997 Vt. AG LEXIS 1, Op. Vt. Att’y Gen. 97-2 (July 23, 1997). ⤴︎
  7. 1997 Vt. AG LEXIS 1, Op. Att’y Gen. 97-2 at *2. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎
  10. See, e.g., Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 24A, §§ 19-304(b)(4) (City of Winooski). ⤴︎
  11. 689 A.2d 427, 429 (Vt. 1996). ⤴︎
  12. Id. ⤴︎

Locking Devices in Vermont

Vermont has no law requiring locking devices to accompany the sale or transfer of a firearm, although federal law applies.

Vermont also has no law requiring firearm owners to utilize locking devices.

See our Locking Devices policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Machine Guns & Automatic Firearms in Vermont

Vermont has no law restricting machine guns, except in the hunting context.1 However, in 2018, the state enacted a limited ban on possession of certain “bump-fire stocks”2 if they are designed to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm and intended to increase the rate of fire achievable with the firearm to that of a fully automatic firearm.3

Federal law requires machine guns to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and generally prohibits the transfer or possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986.4 In December 2018, ATF finalized a rule to include bump stocks within the definition of a machine gun subject to this federal law, meaning that bump stocks will be generally banned as of March 26, 2019.5

See our Machine Guns/ Automatic Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 4704. ⤴︎
  2. See 2017 VT S 55, Sec. 9.  A “bump-fire stock” is defined to mean”a butt stock designed to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm and intended to increase the rate of fire achievable with the firearm to that of a fully automatic firearm by using the energy from the recoil of the firearm to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates the repeated activation of the trigger. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4022(a). ⤴︎
  3. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4022. ⤴︎
  4. 18 U.S.C. § 922(o); 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). ⤴︎
  5. Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018) (to be codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, 479). ⤴︎

Mental Health Reporting in Vermont

See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.

Before 2015, Vermont had no laws requiring the reporting of mental health information to NICS, and Vermont still has no law requiring the reporting of mental health information to NICS regarding individuals adjudicated as mentally defective or incompetent.

However, in 2015, Vermont enacted a law requiring the Court Administrator to report to NICS the identities of individuals subject to a court ordered mental health commitment, hospitalization, or treatment within 48 hours after the court order.2 The report shall include only information sufficient to identify the person, the reason for the report, and a statement that the report is made in accordance with federal law, 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(4).3 Such reports are confidential and generally exempt from public inspection and may not be used for any purpose other than for submission to NICS.4 A copy of the report must also be provided to the person who is the subject of the report, with a written notice to the person who is the subject of the report that he or she is not thereafter permitted to possess a firearm.5

The law also requires the state Department of Mental Health to report to the Court Administrator, on or before October 1, 2015, the names of all persons under the custody of the Department who are currently subject to such court orders and requires the Court Administrator to report those names to the NICS database. 6.

The law also enacted a procedure for persons prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms due to mental illness to petition the Family Division of the Superior Court for relief from the federal firearm prohibition.7 The petition must be filed in the county where the offense or the adjudication occurred.8 When the petition is filed, the petitioner must provide notice and a copy of the petition to the State’s Attorney or the Attorney General, who shall be the respondent in the matter.9 The Court is required to grant the petition without a hearing if neither the State’s Attorney nor the Attorney General files an objection within six months after receiving notice of the petition, or if the respondent and petitioner stipulate to the granting of the petition.10

If the Court does not grant the petition without a hearing, as outlined above, the Court shall consider:

  •  the circumstances regarding the firearms disabilities imposed on the person by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4);
  • the petitioner’s record, including his or her mental health and criminal history records; and
  • the petitioner’s reputation, as demonstrated by character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence.11

The Court shall grant the petition if it finds that the petitioner has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that her or she is no longer a person in need of treatment.12 A “person in need of treatment” means “a person who has a mental illness and, as a result of that mental illness, his or her capacity to exercise self-control, judgment, or discretion in the conduct of his or her affairs and social relations is so lessened that he or she poses a danger of harm to himself, to herself, or to others.”13

If the petition is granted, the Court is required to enter an order declaring that the basis under which the person was prohibited from possessing firearms by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) no longer applies. The Court shall then inform the FBI, NICS, and the U.S. Attorney General, of its decision.14 If the Court denies the petition, the petitioner may then appeal the denial to the Vermont Supreme Court for a de novo review on the record.15 The person may also re-file a petition at least one year after the order of the trial court, or of the Supreme Court if an appeal is taken, becomes final.16

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Vermont Background Checks section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Vermont.

Notes
  1. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4). ⤴︎
  2. See 2015 VT S.B. 141, enacting Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4824 and tit. 18, § 7617a. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. See 2015 VT S.B. 141, Sect. 8 ⤴︎
  7. See 2015 VT S.B. 141, enacting Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825. ⤴︎
  8. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(a)(1). ⤴︎
  9. Id. At the time a petition is filed, the respondent must give notice of the petition to a victim of the offense, if any, who is known to the respondent. The victim shall have the right to offer the respondent a statement prior to any stipulation or to offer the Court a statement. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(g). ⤴︎
  10. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(a)(2)(A), (B). ⤴︎
  11. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(b). ⤴︎
  12. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(c). ⤴︎
  13. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 7101(17). ⤴︎
  14. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(d). ⤴︎
  15. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(e). ⤴︎
  16. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4825(f). ⤴︎