The debate over gun control has been re-ignited across the country following Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. The state of Vermont has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country, but there have been efforts in Montpelier to change that and the debate is very much alive.
Right now, Vermonters are legally allowed to purchase and possess rifles, shotguns and handguns without a permit. It is also legal to possess, purchase, or sell a machine gun that is registered. There are also no permits necessary to carry a concealed weapon.
“I don’t believe our gun laws should change here in Vermont but obviously there is some pressure on the national level to do so,” said Governor Phil Scott, R- Vermont.
Scott says the focus in Vermont needs to be more on safety and gun education, but with Sunday’s tragedy, the largest mass shooting in recent US history some lawmakers say the time for change is now.
“We have these things all the time, it’s a pattern and it’s a pattern we are doing absolutely nothing about,” said Senator Philip Baruth, D- Chittenden District.
Baruth has introduced legislation that would require background checks whenever guns are transferred between individuals. Currently, background checks are only required in sales by a licensed dealer.
Baruth said, “90% of Vermonters support it, 80% of gun owners but it’s stuck on the wall in there which shows you that DC isn’t the only problem, we have a problem here in Vermont too.”
Authorities in Nevada say the shooter had no criminal record or history of mental illness. Investigators in Las Vegas say they found more than 20 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his hotel room.
“In the state of Nevada a lot of people own a lot of guns… It’s a very normal situation in many of the states in the country including Vermont,” said Evan Hughes, Vice President Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs Inc.
While Hughes acknowledges how tragic the events in Las Vegas are, he believes there should be no changes made to Vermont gun laws. Hughes says it’s too early on in the investigation to see how this may shape the conversation in Montpelier.
Hughes said, “Laws should be enacted based on sound public policy in compliance with state and federal constitution… It’s October, we will have to see what evolves in January.”
In the meantime, Baruth says he hopes to keep the issue in the forefront.
“This isn’t politicizing, this is saying people are getting shot while they are at concerts, while they are at malls, schools, night clubs… It’s everywhere now,” said Baruth.
Baruth also introduced legislation back in 2013 that would have banned assault weapons, but withdrew it. He says unlike background checks, there is not a consensus on the ban of particular weapons.