Expanded background check law proposed in gun-friendly Vermont

A lawmaker in Vermont is introducing a bill this month that would implement universal gun background checks.

Vermont has some of the loosest gun laws on the books, and some of the lowest crime rates in the country. In the past, gun control measures have been political suicide for lawmakers. But Democratic state Sen. Phil Baruth says there’s support for his bill, which would expand checks to private sales.

“What we haven’t acted on is the glaring loophole that allows anybody to go online and buy an AK47 for $500 cash in a Five Guys parking lot,” Baruth told WVNY.

“I meet lots of gun owners who support this concept because if they want to buy a gun they already get a background check. They don’t buy weapons in parking lots and they don’t like the fact that some people can without a check,” he said.

Under the measure, law enforcement, active military and immediate family would not be subject to the expanded checks.

Six of Baruth’s Senate colleagues have signed on to support the bill, according to WCAX. As the political climate shifts, and onlookers say the gun lobby is losing its potency in Vermont, Baruth’s bill is still likely to face strong opposition.

“It’s an imposition and it’s unnecessary,” said Evan Hughes, vice president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “Vermont has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation according to FBI statistics.”

“It’s not going to deter the criminals. They’ve evaded other types of checks, they’ll evade these,” he said.

Extended background-check laws that go beyond federal requirements are on the books in 18 states. On Election Day, Nevadans approved a ballot measure to do the same, making it the 19th state. But the attorney general there says the language in the measure prevents the law from taking effect.

In Vermont, Baruth says he thinks he can get the bill to newly-elected Gov. Phil Scott, who pledged on the campaign trail to veto new gun control measures.

“It’s a popular bill and that doesn’t mean it’s going to have an easy passage, it won’t, but I am optimistic,” said Baruth.