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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

State Asks Vermont Supreme Court to Uphold Large-Capacity Magazine Ban

October 15, 2019

Contact: Ben Battles, Solicitor General, 802-82-3171

In a brief filed on Monday, October 14, the Attorney General’s Office asked the Vermont Supreme Court to uphold Vermont’s recently enacted large-capacity magazine ban, 13 V.S.A. § 4021. A coalition of 17 States and the District of Columbia, the Giffords Law Center, and Everytown for Gun Safety also filed amicus curiae briefs yesterday at the Supreme Court in support of Vermont’s magazine ban.

Criminal defendant Max 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 a decision released last June, Superior Court Judge William Cohen rejected Mr. Misch’s constitutional challenge to the magazine ban and declined to dismiss the case. The Vermont Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision.

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

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, following a tragic school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead and a narrowly averted school shooting in Fair Haven, Vermont.

The brief filed yesterday explains that “the people of Vermont, through their elected representatives, have decided that limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines can save lives by reducing the likelihood and harm of a mass shooting.” The brief urges the Court to interpret Article 16 to allow gun safety legislation like 13 V.S.A. § 4021, which preserves the right to use a firearm in self-defense while taking reasonable steps to protect the public from the dangers of gun violence. “This common-sense test is applied by other New England states when interpreting their own right-to-bear arms provisions and is consistent with Article 16’s text and Vermont’s historical and constitutional traditions.” The brief also argues that the Supreme Court should reject Mr. Misch’s Common Benefit challenge because a grandfather clause is “a permissible and well-established legislative tool for mitigating the potential inconvenience of a new regulation.”

A copy of the State’s brief is available here.

Last modified: October 15, 2019