December 10, 2018

Police accepting bump stocks with ban two weeks away

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

By Colin Meyn

For VT Digger

With two weeks to go until bump-fire stocks are officially banned in Vermont, state police are now accepting voluntary and anonymous returns of the devices at barracks across the state.

Bump stocks were banned as part of Act 94, a sweeping piece of gun control legislation signed by Gov. Phil Scott in April. Starting on Oct. 1, those still in possession of the devices face punishment of up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Vermont State Police released a statement Monday announcing that its 10 barracks across the state will accept bump stocks, with no questions asked, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Barracks staff will take no information about the identity of the person surrendering the bump-fire stock,” the statement says, adding that devices will be held in a secure area until they are destroyed.

It also asks people to be sure the bump stocks are removed from firearms before they are handed over to police.

State Police Captain Timothy Clouatre, the media contact for the bump stock return, said he did not have a sense of how many bump stocks are owned by people in Vermont.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had not heard estimates of how many people the ban would affect during the drafting of the bill, which was called S.55 until it was signed into law.

“Off all the things that were in S.55 regarding gun control, that was probably the least controversial,” he said.

The most controversial section of the bill has been a ban on high-capacity magazines, which has drawn two separate lawsuits claiming the law is unconstitutional. The bill also raised the minimum age to purchase a gun and expanded background checks to private sales.

Sears said he did not think the bump stock ban would necessarily make Vermonters safer.

“To be honest, it was feel good,” he said of the impetus for the ban among lawmakers. “I’m not sure that it will do much good in Vermont, but you’re never immune.”

Clouatre said he was not aware of any instances of bump stocks being used in a crime in Vermont.

Bump stocks are usually made of plastic, and are used in place of a standard stock to take advantage of a rifle’s recoil so that the gun moves rapidly back and forth on a shooter’s trigger finger, firing like an automatic weapon.

Shortly before the new law banning the devices was passed in Vermont, President Donald Trump moved to ban bump stocks at the federal level by classifying them as machine guns.

A number of states have also banned the devices, which came under national attention after at least one was used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 at a country music concert on Oct. 1, 2017.

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