Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Court Upholds Vermont’s Large-Capacity Magazine Ban

July 1, 2019

Contact: Ben Battles, Solicitor General, 802-828-3171

 

Bennington Superior Court Judge William Cohen has upheld Vermont’s recently enacted large-capacity magazine ban, 13 V.S.A. § 4021. In a decision released on June 28, 2019, the Court rejected a constitutional challenge brought by criminal defendant Max Misch and declined to dismiss the case.

The magazine law generally prohibits long-gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and handgun magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. The law was part of the gun safety legislation enacted in April 2018. The magazine law aims to protect public safety by reducing the likelihood and harm of a mass shooting in Vermont.

“I am very pleased that the Court upheld the large magazine ban,” said Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “This was common sense legislation necessary for public safety.”

Mr. Misch was charged under the law after the Vermont State Police received a report from a concerned citizen that Mr. Misch was stockpiling weapons and ammunition and had illegally imported two banned magazines into the State. In seeking to have the charges against him dismissed, Mr. Misch argued that the magazine law violates the people’s “right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves and the State” under Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution. He also argued the law violates Article 7’s Common Benefits Clause because it prohibits him from acquiring new large-capacity magazines but allows other Vermonters to retain large-capacity magazines they lawfully owned before the new law went into effect.

In a seven-page decision, Judge Cohen rejected both arguments. Agreeing with the numerous courts around the country that have rejected similar challenges to other States’ large-capacity magazine bans, the court held that the State has “an eminently important and indeed compelling” interest in protecting the public from gun violence, and in particular, mass shootings, and that the magazine law is both substantially related to that interest and a reasonable limitation on the right to bear arms. The court rejected the Common Benefits Clause argument because the statute’s grandfathering provision was merely a reasonable effort to ease the burden of a new regulation.

A copy of the Court’s decision is available here.

Last modified: July 1, 2019