New Haven firearms vendor pans new Vermont gun laws

NEW HAVEN — Licensed firearms dealer David Pidgeon is happy to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
“No dealer wants to sell a firearm to someone who shouldn’t have it,” he said.
But the owner of Pidgeon’s Gun Shop in New Haven doesn’t think the gun-control bills Gov. Scott signed into law last Wednesday are going to make anyone safer.
The new laws ban accessories that turn guns into military-style weapons; allow police to take guns from citizens in a few specific cases; expands background checks; and places an age limit, with some exceptions, on gun ownership (see “Vermont’s new gun laws” below).
Like other vocal gun owners, Pidgeon thinks these laws violate rights protected by the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Two other area gun dealers declined to talk to the Independent about the new laws.
For his part, many of Pidgeon’s criticisms of the bills transcend Second Amendment complaints and extend to more practical concerns.
“If someone gets their gun taken away but doesn’t get entered into the system right away, they can come in and buy another gun the next day,” he said, referring to H.422, which allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from individuals cited for domestic assault.
And who is going to keep track of all these confiscated guns, Pidgeon wondered. Law enforcement was already struggling with storage guidelines.
“There are 1,191 guns the state of Vermont has in storage,” he said.
That number, according to Vermont State Police Lt. Garry Scott, is actually closer to 1,400.
An expert on the state’s Firearms Storage Program, which was created in 2014 to manage “the relinquishment and storage of firearms, ammunition and weapons when a court orders such relinquishment as part of a relief from abuse order.” Lt. Scott said the state has 410 weapons stored in a rented vault in Montpelier and an average of maybe 100 weapons in storage at each of the 10 state police barracks.
About 130 of these are weapons seized in connection with temporary restraining orders, which as temporary evidence must be stored separately. At times this can pose a “significant problem,” said Lt. Scott.
“At the New Haven barracks this is less of an issue, because it’s newer and can handle it, but most barracks are not equipped for the storage of both short- and long-term evidence.”
The new laws will probably not have a noticeable impact on the Firearms Storage Program, Lt. Scott said.
Could someone cited for domestic assault turn around and buy another gun the next day? Theoretically, yes, said Lt. Scott, but only in very rare cases. Such individuals are typically taken into custody by law enforcement, preventing them from accessing firearms of any kind, he noted.
The new laws require background checks on private gun sales, but the rules for how that will work are still being worked out.
As spelled out in the law, firearms dealers may perform background checks for private firearms sales — and charge “reasonable fees” for the service. But Pidgeon said he’ll refuse to do so. He doesn’t want to deal with the extra paperwork or have to manage the storage of firearms whose sellers and buyers run into problems with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Although he has misgivings about the new gun laws, Pidgeon is not worried about his business drying up.
Pidgeon’s Gun Shop typically does well during tax season, when some customers use their returns to finance larger purchases. Since the new laws were signed in April, Pidgeon expects he will see his business increase.
“I started to see more business after the first of the year. When the bills were passed, I had a lot of ‘panic buy-in’ customers” who wanted to stock up on accessories that would soon become illegal.
During an interview with the Addison Independent, Pidgeon assisted two customers, both of whom were making or planning purchases directly in response to the new laws.
“Financially, it probably won’t make a difference,” Pidgeon said. “Gun manufacturers don’t give a crap. They’ll sell a gun for the same price whether it has a high-capacity magazine or not.”
A lifelong hunter, Pidgeon has been in the firearms business for nearly 60 years. He opened his gun shop part-time in 1959 to supplement his income as a dairy farmer, then went full-time in 1986.
Now in his late 70s, Pidgeon said he’s lived to see the best of Vermont.
“But it’s slowly going downhill. People are leaving because they can’t afford to stay,” he said. “I’m getting calls from people who moved to Vermont to escape New York gun laws, and now we have the same laws as they do.
“I never thought I’d see this in Vermont. Certainly not from a Republican governor.”
Gov. Scott at his bill signing ceremony on Wednesday acknowledged that some of his constituents would be angry with him.
“I understand I may lose support over the decision to sign these bills today,” Scott said. “Those are consequences I’m prepared to live with.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].
Vermont’s new gun laws
The three bills Gov. Scott signed into law last week are:
• S.221 immediately prohibits individuals from possessing firearms for up to a year if they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.
• H.422 gives police power to remove firearms from individuals cited for domestic assault. Goes into effect Sept. 1.
• S.55 immediately expands background checks to private gun sales, raises the minimum age for purchasing firearms to 21 — unless the buyer has taken a hunter safety course (which is already required to obtain a hunting license), is a veteran, or is a law enforcement official or in the military. Section 9 of the bill bans bump stocks, which simulate fully automatic firing; it will go into effect Oct. 1.

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