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Vermont Law Banning Unserialized Firearms Goes Into Effect Without Republican Governor’s Signature

An assortment of semiautomatic rifles on display for sale at R Guns in Carpentersville, Illinois, on April 29, 2023. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
May 30, 2024

Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has allowed a law to go into effect that prohibits residents in his state from owning unserialized firearms.

The Vermont state legislature’s bill, S.209, became law on Tuesday without Scott’s signature of approval or his veto.

The bill in question prohibits the possession or transfer of unserialized firearms frames and receivers, which gun control activists commonly refer to as “ghost guns.”

Federal law doesn’t prohibit private individuals from manufacturing firearms for personal use or require additional licensing for such activities. But gun control proponents have raised concern that homemade firearms without serial numbers may contribute to more violent crimes while complicating law enforcement efforts to identify suspects.

President Joe Biden’s administration introduced a rule in 2022 to require those selling homemade firearms kits to serialize various parts before and conduct background checks with their sales, treating parts kits that often include unfinished parts the same way they’d treat sales of fully-assembled firearms.

Gun control proponents in several states have, in recent years, also advanced legislation and litigation to prevent the proliferation of these difficult-to-trace unserialized firearms. For instance, California’s Democrat-controlled legislature passed a law in 2016 requiring those with homemade firearms to apply with the Department of Justice for a serial number and undergo a background check.

Like the 2016 California law, the new Vermont law describes a process by which those possessing a homemade firearm to get a serial number affixed to their firearm to avoid running afoul of the law.

Democrats hold legislative supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, and this new gun control measure passed the House in a 110-31 vote and the Senate in a 26-3 vote. Had the governor elected to veto the legislation, it might have been overcome in the legislature with a veto override. But rather than raise the prospect of a veto and a veto override vote, Scott instead allowed the law to simply go into effect without his signature.

“As a public safety measure, I agree firearms should be serialized, which is why I’m allowing this bill to become law despite some concerns about its practicality and impact,” Scott said on Tuesday.

Scott said he felt the bill would not be effective at curbing crime in the state.

“In addition to my concerns about this bill’s effectiveness, I would have preferred the Legislature not criminalize mere possession when there is no evidence of criminal intent,” Scott continued.

The Republican Vermont governor credited lawmakers for at least removing a rule imposing a three-day waiting period for a firearm owner seeking to have a firearm serialized, which he said “made no sense” in the context of the bill and “would have deterred compliance.”

Despite the Republican governor’s stated concerns, Democrat state Sen. Phil Baruth, a co-sponsor of the legislation, touted the bill as a policy win favored by members of all political parties.

“No Vermonter should be able to 3D print a gun in their basement — or order a ready-to-assemble gun kit off the internet — without acquiring a serial number and a background check for that weapon,” Baruth told the Vermont Digger on Tuesday. Vermonters of all political parties can agree on that.”

A New York state judge recently sentenced a Brooklyn man to 10 years in prison for possessing unserialized firearms and other firearms and firearms parts.

In 2022, the California legislature passed a law attempting to prohibit sales of specific computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines they believe are specifically designed or marketed as a way to fabricate homemade firearms parts. The San Diego County government filed a lawsuit earlier this month accusing a trio of business entities of trying to flout this law by rebranding a CNC machine originally called the “Ghost Gunner” as a new machine that can be used for non-firearm-related CNC projects.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.