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Know the Laws: Vermont

UPDATED March 29, 2017

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.  Go to the VT Where to Find Help page to find legal assistance or domestic violence organizations in your area.

More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topIf the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the judge orders that the abuser's gun must be taken away, the relief from abuse order should say who will take the gun(s) and who will hold it.  Generally, the gun(s) will either be turned over to a local law enforcement officer, a state law enforcement officer, or a family member of the abuser.

There are no set rules explaining how the guns will be stored, which can lead to confusion.  However, recently, the Vermont state police have made an inventory form that allows them to keep a record of how many guns are turned over to the Vermont state police.  This form also includes a notice to the defendant (the abuser), letting him/her know that s/he cannot have or buy guns while the relief from abuse order is in effect.  These forms, however, are not required by law and they are not used in every county.

If the abuser is charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor or any felony, you can ask the judge to order that the abuser give up any guns s/he has to the Vermont state police as part of his/her sentence.

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back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the state police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our VT Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Vermont on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer. 

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our VT State and Local Programs page. 

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.* 

United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the federal firearm law?

Anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.* 

* 18 USC § 921(a)(33)(A)

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back to topI do not have a relief from abuse order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, is there anything I can do?

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information.  You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  See our VT State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Vermont, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe.  If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.

However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, the abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.*

If you are confused or not sure whether the abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our VT State and Local Programs page.

 * 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our VT Where to Find Help page).

 

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