With gunfire incidents on the rise across Vermont, public safety, both Gov. Phil Scott and state lawmakers have their sights set on lowering violent crime rates.

While still the second safest state in the nation, Vermont has seen post-pandemic firearm-related crimes rise in the last year, most notably in Burlington. However, Vermont crime statistician Robin Joy says it’s too early to know how long that might last.

“People feel like crime has gone up,” Joy said. “This last year certainly the numbers indicate that they have gone up. But we don’t know if it’s a trend.” 

Sen. Dick Sears, a Republican from Bennington, is sponsoring a bill that will dole out $10 million in grants to combat violence and address substance abuse.

“I think we all know we can’t arrest our way out of this,” he said

Scott has signed legislation in recent years that raised the legal age for buying firearms and expanded background checks. Over the summer, the governor released a 10-point plan to tackle violence. Vermont’s Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison said that’s shown some success.

“In Burlington, the community saw a need for a uniform presence with police officers on certain days of the week at certain times,” Morrison said. “They entered in a contract with the Vermont State Police to use troopers that volunteer on an overtime status.” 

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says more needs to be done for cities. Queen City residents saw unprecedented gun violence in 2022, with more than two dozen gunfire incidents and at least five homicides. City voters have approved tightening gun laws, including requiring safe storage of firearms and prohibiting guns in bars and restaurants.

But those provisions need state approval to be implemented. 

“Self storage would have helped with the situation last year,” Weinberger said. “It wouldn’t have fully addressed it, but it would’ve helped, and certainly statewide action would help even more.”