In what marks the first significant restrictions on guns in the state’s history, Vermont’s GOP governor signed a bill that raises the age to buy firearms and makes it easier to confiscate guns from people who’ve shown a history of violence or intimidation.
The move is a stark reversal in a state that has long resisted restrictions on gun ownership.
Governor Phil Scott signed the three bills into law as a crowd of gun rights activists and supporters of gun control looked on, according to PBS.
Scott, a gun owner, had urged the Legislature to pass gun restrictions in the aftermath of what police called a narrowly averted school shooting in Fair Haven by a teenager. He said the incident proved to him that Vermont isn’t immune from the school violence that has plagued other parts of the country.
Speaking to PBS, political science professor Robert Spitzer says the mass shooting at a Florida high school in February is prompting new gun legislation in various states, but Vermont’s new laws are notable because the state is “traditionally such a strong gun-rights state and has not moved in this direction in ages, if ever.”
The new legislation doesn’t come without some pushback, however. As PBS points out, powerful gun rights advocates who supported Scott in 2016 during his campaign feel betrayed.
While gun rights advocates generally support blocking people with violent histories from owning guns, they are overwhelmingly opposed to raising the legal age to buy a firearm, which has been raised from 18 to 21. They are additionally opposed to restricting the capacity of magazines and background checks for private gun sales.
Nevertheless, supporters of the move think it’s time.
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