Vermont’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Vermont
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
Vermont’s hate crime sentencing enhancement statute provides extended prison sentences for people convicted of committing any crime that was motivated at least in part by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the Armed Forces, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.1 Under this law, misdemeanors that are typically punishable by over one year in prison are reclassified as felonies when they are committed as hate crimes; misdemeanors that are typically punishable by up toone year are still treated as misdemeanors when committed as hate crimes, but punishable by up to two years.2
Vermont law prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of specified violent crimes, including felony aggravated assault and stalking offenses.3 Federal law prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.4 Though misdemeanors are not punishable by more than two years in Vermont, the state’s hate crime statute reclassifies some hate-motivated misdemeanors as felonies (when the underlying misdemeanor is typically punishable by over one year in prison).
As a result, people convicted of hate-motivated violent felonies (or crimes reclassified as felonies) are generally prohibited from accessing guns under both Vermont and federal law,5 including those convicted of hate-motivated stalking or aggravated assault for inflicting or attempting to inflict serious bodily injury or bodily injury with a deadly weapon, or for threatening to use a deadly weapon against a person while actually armed with that weapon.6
However, people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms in Vermont under both state and federal law, including people convicted of purposely violently injuring someone in an assault, threateningly shooting a firearm toward another person, or making credible threats of violence.7
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- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1455.
- Id. Vermont defines felonies as any offense with a maximum term of imprisonment of over two years; all other crimes are considered misdemeanors. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1.
- Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 4017(a), (d)(3); 5301(7); 1024; 1062; 1063. Misdemeanor stalking is reclassified as a felony when committed as a hate crime. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1455; 1062.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- People convicted of felonies, or hate crime offenses reclassified as felonies, that are not defined as firearm-prohibiting “violent crimes” under Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4017 are only subject to federal firearm restrictions. However, few crimes fall into this category in Vermont.
- See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1024 (felony “aggravated assault”). People convicted of hate-motivated stalking are also prohibited under state and federal law since this crime is a firearm-prohibiting “violent crime” under Vermont law and is punishable by up to five years as a hate crime.
- These offenses are not punishable by more than two years or reclassified as felonies even under Vermont’s hate crime law and are also not defined as firearm-prohibiting “violent crimes” under state law either: Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1023 (“Simple assault”); 1026a(1), 4) (“Aggravated disorderly conduct”); 1702 (“Criminal threatening”); 4011 (“Aiming gun at another” and discharging firearm).