Vermont now 41st state to allow civilian ownership of suppressors

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) dropped Vermont’s 103-year-old ban on suppressors this month. (Photo: Vermont Digger/Josh Larkin)

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a Fish and Wildlife bill last week that included language to legalize suppressors and repeal one of the oldest bans in the nation on the devices.

The bill was introduced to the House in February as a standalone measure before being rolled into larger Senate economic development package and finally into the House F&W measure which passed the legislature with broad support. Vermont’s prohibition on silencers and suppressors predated the National Firearms Act.

The legislation, signed by Shumlin on June 17, was introduced by Rep. Pat Brennan, R-Colchester, who championed the devices for safety and target shooting.

Brennan’s language in the measure, HB 5, strikes the long-time ban on manufacture, sale or possession of gun silencers, and replaces it with new language that would allow all of the above so long as it remains inside the current federal framework as regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While Brennan’s initial proposal allowed for their use in hunting, that reform has been stripped over concerns by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department of poaching. Further, use of the devices by civilians will be limited to “sport shooting ranges.”

The National Rifle Association, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a multitude of state gun rights groups, and the American Suppressor Association championed the legislation, which could potentially mean jobs for Vermont-based defense contractor General Dynamics.

“The legalization of suppressors in Vermont is a huge step forward for not only the state, but also the country,” Knox Williams, ASA president, told Friday. “Governor Shumlin’s signature on H. 5 is the culmination of two years of hard work on the part of Rep. Brennan, the Vermont Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the ASA.

Williams advised the work is not done in the Green Mountain State.

“We are thrilled that recreational shooters in the state will now be able to protect their hearing in a new and effective way. We look forward to next year, when we will attempt to legalize their use while hunting,” said Williams.

The state joins the majority of the country in legalizing firearm mufflers, following on the heels of Minnesota’s move to do likewise in May. In that state, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) reversed course on a promised veto threat made to lawmakers who attached the language to a popular judiciary policy bill passed in a veto-proof margin. In the end, Dayton signed it into law without comment.

NFA-compliant suppressors have made a steady march from obscure novelties to mainstream acceptance in recent years. With over 3,000 manufacturers approved to produce the devices, as of March 2014, no less than 571,750 legal suppressors are listed in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

Vermont’s new suppressor law, codified as Act 61, will take effect on July 2.

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