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Vermont Gun Control Laws

Gun control laws often lead to contentious debates in Congress and state legislatures. Lawmakers struggle to balance concerns of public safety with the rights of gun owners to arm themselves for self-defense and other purposes. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment establishes a personal right to possess a firearm in the home for lawful purposes. 

In 2022, the Court ruled that individuals also have a right to carry arms in public. It placed new burdens on the State to show that a regulation is narrowly tailored in line with historical regulations of firearms. Since then, federal and state gun control laws have faced legal challenges.

While state gun control laws often differ in their detail, there are some common features. Purchasing and possessing firearms for self-defense, hunting, or certain recreational purposes is often legal unless state or federal law prohibits the buyer based on past criminal history or mental health concerns. Using a gun to commit a crime or carrying one in restricted spaces such as schools, courthouses, or prisons will bring criminal charges in most jurisdictions.

Federal regulations govern the possession and use of firearms in interstate commerce. Under federal law, purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer will cause an instant background check. The FBI houses the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Through NICS, law enforcement officers can flag a gun purchase involving a person who has a felony conviction or falls under other legal disabilities.

Gun Control in Vermont

Vermont's state constitution guarantees people the right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state. For many years, the state had few laws restricting ownership or possession of firearms. There are no registration or licensing requirements in Vermont. The state does not require a carry permit for handguns or long guns. Law-abiding gun owners, be they residents or non-residents, can carry firearms concealed or open in public.

Beginning in 2018, the Vermont legislature has brought forward bills focused on gun violence prevention. Since that time, the state has enacted laws providing for universal background checks on gun sales and firearm transfers. Lawmakers raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. The state has also banned the use of high-capacity magazines and defaced firearms that have no visible serial number.

Vermont also created an extreme risk protection order procedure, permitting courts to order the confiscation of guns from those determined to be at risk of causing harm to themselves or others. The state added safe storage rules and a 72-hour waiting period after purchase to its firearms laws. Gov. Phil Scott allowed this last law to take effect without his signature, expecting a court challenge.

As of early 2024, the state has not passed an assault weapons ban. The City of Burlington pursued a charter change to prohibit assault weapons in the past, but enforcement would likely bring a challenge under the state's preemption statute which gives the state the last word on major gun laws.

The state of Vermont has always prohibited unlawful firearm activity. Vermont makes it a crime to carry a dangerous weapon with the intent to injure someone. Using a gun to commit a felony or firing a gun while aiming it at someone are offenses too. Negligent use of a firearm can earn you up to five years in prison. There are also prohibitions on selling or furnishing guns to minors without parental permission.

Gun owners who carry firearms concealed or open in the state need to be aware of location restrictions in the law. The state bans the presence of firearms in the following locations under most circumstances:

  • Courthouses, unless the court has authorized the person to carry
  • Hospitals
  • School buildings, school buses, school grounds
  • State buildings

The following table provides a quick summary of Vermont gun control laws:

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Vermont Statutes, Title 13, Chapter 85, Sections 4001 through 4061

  • Zip guns (homemade guns); switchblade knives - Section 4013
  • Persons prohibited from possessing firearms; conviction of a violent crime - Section 4017
  • Large capacity ammunition feeding devices - Section 4021
  • Bump-fire stocks; possession prohibited - Section 4022
  • Defaced firearms - Section 4026
  • Possession of dangerous or deadly weapon in a school bus or school building or on school property - Section 4004

Illegal Arms

Vermont has few restrictions on the types of firearms a person can own or possess. Vermont prohibits:

  • Bump stocks
  • Large capacity ammunition feeding devices, except for feeding devices lawfully possessed by a licensed dealer before April 11, 2018, and transferred by October 1, 2018
  • Zip guns
  • Defaced firearms

Waiting Period

Vermont has a 72-hour waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm.

Who May Not Own

Vermont has few prohibitions on who may own a firearm. The following people may not possess firearms in Vermont:

  • A person who has been convicted of a violent crime as defined in Vermont law
  • A fugitive from justice
  • A person who is subject to a final relief from abuse order
  • A person who is subject to a final order against stalking that prohibits possession of a firearm
  • A person who is subject to an active extreme risk protection order
  • A person who has pending charges of carrying a dangerous weapon during a felony; trafficking a regulated drug; or human trafficking or aggravated human trafficking
To review federal prohibitions on possession of a firearm, see 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g).

License Required?

Vermont does not require a license to own a firearm.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Vermont does not require a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is legal in Vermont. No license is required to open carry.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

Vermont does not require a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Machine Gun Laws

Vermont does not prohibit the possession of machine guns. However, federal law generally prohibits machine gun possession.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

Although Vermont has limited prohibitions against possessing firearms, the penalties for unlawful possession can involve incarceration. Below are the penalties for violating Vermont's firearm possession laws:

  • Illegal possession of a firearm after being convicted of a violent crime carries a potential penalty of up to two years in prison; a fine of up to $1,000; or both
  • Illegal possession of a zip gun carries a potential penalty of up to 90 days in jail; a fine of up to $100; or both
  • Illegal possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device carries a potential penalty of up to one year in jail; a fine of up to $500; or both
  • Illegal possession of a bump stock carries a potential penalty of up to one year in jail; a fine of up to $1,000; or both
  • Illegal possession of a defaced firearm carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $50,000; or both

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

Illegal possession of a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building or on a school bus is punishable by up to one year in jail; a fine of up to $1,000; or both. A second or subsequent offense is punishable by up to three years in prison; a fine of up to $5,000; or both

Red Flag Law?

Yes. Vermont enacted a "red flag" law permitting a court to issue an extreme risk protection order against persons found to be a risk of physical harm to themselves or others. A state's attorney, the Office of the Attorney General, or a household or family member may file the initial petition. If the court grants the initial petition, then the State's Attorney of the county must take over prosecution. An order may last up to six months and involve the removal of firearms from the subject.

Universal Background Checks?

Yes. Vermont law now requires that private individuals engaged in the sale or transfer of a firearm must appear before a licensed firearms dealer to complete the transaction, with limited exceptions.

Stand Your Ground Law?

No. However, Vermont courts have interpreted no duty to retreat in the context of self-defense from any place a person has a right to be.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Research the Law

Talk to an Attorney for More Information

State gun control laws are subject to change. In places like New England, the laws may vary between Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. If you face questions over gun possession or use, it makes sense to seek out legal advice. Consider contacting a Vermont criminal defense lawyer to get answers to your questions.

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