Democratic leaders in the Vermont Senate are preparing legislation calling for expanded background checks for gun purchases and state prosecution of what are now federal gun crimes, including being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
“I do not believe that background checks alone are the only solution; it is not always going to prevent gun violence. But there will be times when it will be effective,” said Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, D-Windsor.
Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, said part of the bill would target firearms sales over the Internet by requiring a buyer to “physically appear” at a federally licensed gun dealer, where staff will run the person’s name through an FBI database to make sure the buyer doesn’t have criminal convictions or a court finding of mental illness that would bar the purchase.
“It’s not designed to take guns away from anyone,” Baruth said. “But it says guns are serious things. If you want a gun you need a background check.”
Vermont gun shops have used the federal background check system since the late 1990s, but the system is porous, with Internet and gun show sales frequently happening without the checks, gun restriction advocates maintain.
The national group Everytown for Gun Safety this past week released an analysis of new FBI data showing that the federal background check system is working in Vermont, blocking more than 3,000 gun sales to prohibited purchasers since 1998. These blocked sales include 279 gun sales to drug offenders, 356 to people convicted of domestic violence or subject to protection orders, and 983 sales to convicted felons, the group said.