Why It Matters: Sportsmen and women, including recreational shooters, have a crucial role as the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in Vermont (and across the nation) and are thus an important constituency that provides benefits for all residents of the state. Anti-firearms legislation, such as S. 4, poses a significant threat to the state’s conservation funding. In 2021, Vermont’s sportsmen and women generated over $15.83 million for conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding. Efforts to create unnecessary barriers to entry in the pursuit of hunting and recreational shooting opportunities, such as the possession ban in S. 4, not only undermine this funding, but have the potential to thwart youth participation in our time-honored sporting traditions.
- With legislative sessions in full swing across New England, several anti-firearms bills have been moving in Committees, calling for engagements by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
- Senate Bill 4 (S. 4) in Vermont would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from possessing “semiautomatic assault weapons” – a vague description that would include many popular firearms and firearms attachments used for hunting and recreational shooting.
- As written, it also contradicts existing Vermont law and would create a legal juxtaposition that would have to be resolved in court.
- CSF submitted a letter of opposition to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, calling attention to the many negative ramifications that would result from S. 4.
At first glance, Vermont’s recently introduced Senate Bill 4 (S. 4) appears to be yet another far-reaching and vaguely written bill aimed at prohibiting the possession of “semiautomatic assault weapon” for anyone under the age of 21. However, taking a deeper dive, one begins to see the many ways in which this legislation is not only self-contradictory, but how it could impact youth participation in certain hunting and recreational shooting opportunities, along with slashing the supplementary economic contributions that sportsmen and women generate.
In addition to being detrimental to our traditional sporting pursuits of hunting and recreational shooting, the bill also is in direct contradiction with existing Vermont law. By way of 13 V.S.A. § 4020, exceptions to the general prohibition on the sale of firearms to persons under the age of 21 includes: “a person who provides the seller with a certificate of satisfactory completion of a Vermont hunter safety course or an equivalent hunter safety course that is approved by the Commissioner.” If S. 4 were enacted, individuals who qualify for this exception would legally be allowed to purchase “semiautomatic assault weapons” but not possess them. Ultimately this issue would have to be settled in court, costing the state valuable time and resources.
S. 4 also has the potential to diminish ammunition sales otherwise spent by a certain age group of hunters and recreational shooters, and therefore deflect much-needed conservation dollars away from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. In Vermont, sportsmen and women also support $214 million in salaries and wages and generate $51 million in Federal taxes, $50 million in state and local taxes, and have a ripple effect of $658 million.
A final concern is the impact this bill will have on youth hunters, especially those pursuing turkeys. Vermont claims to have “the best wild turkey hunting in New England,” but the limitations within S. 4 create burdensome challenges to sportsmen and women under the age of 21 who pursue turkeys and own shotguns that contain one or more of the prohibited features, such as a “telescoping stock,” “thumbhole stock,” and/or “detachable magazine.”
Recently, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted testimony in opposition to S. 4, which was heard in committee on January 27. CSF will continue to provide updates as they are made available.