Vermont Governor to Authorize New Gun Restrictions Wednesday

Republican Phil Scott plans to sign into law a package of new rules he says are aimed at boosting public safety

On Wednesday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) plans to sign into law three bills pertaining to firearms, which Scott says are designed to make the state a safer place to live.

"This wasn’t easy," Gov. Scott said Tuesday, acknowledging the considerable frustration gun rights supporters have expressed with the legislation in recent weeks.

The Republican governor, once seen by many gun rights supporters as firmly on their side, made a 180 on the legislation after what Vermont State Police labeled an extremely close call—thwarting a suspected mass shooting plot at a Rutland County High School.

"The responsibility as governor to protect our citizens is enormous," Scott said.

The small state has historically had few gun restrictions, but still maintains a low violent crime rate.

The changes coming Wednesday create more stringent background checks for gun purchases, ban bump stocks, raise the age for most gun sales here to 21, and make it easier on law enforcement to, after due process, remove firearms from people deemed safety risks to themselves or others.

"Everyone needs to look at this as dispassionately as they can, and it's difficult when it's an issue of rights," observed Mike Donohue, the chair of the Chittenden County GOP and a spokesman for the state party.

Donohue told necn Tuesday that he has heard from vocal conservatives who are deeply disappointed in the governor. However, he said he has also heard from Republicans, independents, and some liberals who seem pleased with Scott's leadership on the issue.

Republican Keith Stern is challenging Scott in the state primary in August, and has outlined a stance on guns more to the right of the incumbent.

However, Donohue said his support remains firmly with Scott, adding, "The governor has the strong support of Republicans throughout the state."

At R&L Archery in Barre, which also sells firearms and ammunition, retailer Jon Sanborn is among the sportsmen disappointed in Gov. Scott's announcement he’ll sign the package of gun reforms into law.

"I’m not happy about the laws," he said. "This is not something I ever foresaw in my lifetime happening here."

Sanborn is letting customers know certain magazines with higher bullet capacities won’t be sold much longer under the new laws. He said people are stocking up, while telling him they fear possible future restrictions.

"We don’t want it to get any worse," the businessman said of any possible future proposals to add more restrictions on gun owners.

Sanborn added that in recent days and weeks, he has seen a marked increase in sales of both higher-capacity magazines and firearms.

Gov. Scott said he accepts any disappointment in him, adding that if there’s a price to pay at the polls, he'll have to pay it.

However, past polling has ranked Scott as one of the most popular governors in the nation, despite being a Republican serving in a state as blue as Vermont.

Necn partner NBC 5 News contributed to this report.

Contact Us