Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Before 2015, Vermont had not adopted any classes of prohibited persons broader than those set forth under federal law (and had not made sales to those purchasers a state crime).
However, in 2015, Vermont passed a law prohibiting a person who has been convicted of a violent crime from possessing a firearm.1 For the purposes of this prohibition, “firearm” is defined to include (i) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (ii) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; or (iii) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer, except if the firearm is an antique firearm.2 The statute defines “violent crime” to include certain enumerated crimes,3) including domestic assault and stalking offenses.4
A Vermont court may, as a condition of probation, require that an offender or juvenile offender refrain from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition without written permission from the court, probation officer, or juvenile probation officer.5
In 2018, Vermont also enacted a law to allow prosecutors to act to temporarily disarm people who pose a risk to self or others by using an Extreme Risk Protection Order.6 Respondents subject to these orders are prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm, or having a firearm within the person’s custody or control, for a period of up to six months while the order is in effect.7 Vermont has no laws prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms by:
- Persons with a history of impairing mental illness;
- Persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders (although Vermont does provide that a court issuing these orders may prohibit people subject to these orders from possessing firearms);
- People with drug or alcohol use disorders; or
- Juvenile offenders.
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Vermont Background Check Procedures section.
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- See 2015 VT S.B. 141, enacting Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4017. This prohibition applies unless the person has successfully petitioned the U.S. Attorney General for relief from the disabilities imposed by Federal laws with respect to the acquisition, receipt, transfer, shipment, transportation, or possession of firearms.
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4017(d)(1), (2).
- Those listed in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 5301(7
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4017(d)(3).
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 28, § 252(b)(8), tit. 33, § 5262(b)(4).
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4051, et seq. (enacted by 2017 VT S 221).
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 4053(e)(2), 4054(d)(1).