By Guy Page
During the first six months of 2021, federal background checks for Vermont firearms purchases were down – but only slightly – from last year’s record high numbers.
This year has seen 27,678 purchases January through June, compared to 29,228 during the first six months of last year. 2021 first-half figures, as kept by the federal government since the early 1990’s, still are far higher than those of any year before 2020.
Federal law requires a background check for most firearms purchases. For all of last year, Vermont gun purchases triggered 57,965 background checks, according to a database kept by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Before last year, the highest annual number was 41,550 in 2018.
One Vermont Second Amendment advocate said the main motive for increased gun sales is a heightened awareness of individual need for self-defense.
“Understanding the continued increases in firearms sales across the country is very easy,” President Chris Bradley of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs said. “One only needs to look at the civil unrest that is now prevalent across our country, especially in our urban areas. In response to continually seeing innocent people being attacked, people rightfully feel unsafe, and as a direct result people are seeking effective means to defend themselves, with the majority of these first-time buyers being People of Color and Women.”
“People have a right to defend themselves, and in the face of heinous attacks on citizens and police, in addition to ill-conceived attempts to defund police, it is natural that honest and law-abiding citizens will provide for themselves,” Bradley said.
These cited above represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not precisely represent the number of firearms sold. A one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale because some legal gun sales do not require a background check.
Vermont ranks 19th in per capita gun ownership, according to 2017 statistics.
The Vermont Senate this year passed S30, banning gun possession in hospitals and creating a study group for carrying firearms at the State House. The bill is now in the Vermont House Judiciary Committee, where it is likely to get a hearing in the second half of the biennium next year. Also, the Vermont House passed H133, allowing police to seize firearms from subjects of relief from abuse orders. That bill is now in Senate Judiciary.