(Reuters) – Vermont lawmakers gave final legislative approval on Friday to a bill that raises the legal age for buying firearms and expands background checks, becoming the latest state poised to tighten gun restrictions after last month’s Florida school massacre.
The Democrat-controlled state Senate approved the measure, S55, in a 17-13 vote, according to the online legislative record. The bill passed the state House of Representatives this week.
The measure now goes to Republican Governor Phil Scott, who has shifted his stance and voiced support for some gun controls after the arrest in February of a Vermont teenager accused of threatening to shoot up a high school. The incident came two days after a former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Scott’s support for gun controls marked a sharp switch for a governor with a 93 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) gun rights advocacy group in an otherwise politically liberal state with a reputation as a pro-gun stronghold.
Vermont, a largely rural New England state with a passion for hunting, is one of two dozen states where efforts to curb gun violence have gained momentum since the Feb. 14 shooting rampage that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Vermont bill raises the age for gun purchases to 21 and expands background checks for private gun sales. It also bans magazines of more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols as well as rapid-fire devices known as bump stocks.
Vermont Public Radio reported that the Senate would take up two more gun-related measures next week. Both are aimed at removing guns from homes in cases of domestic violence or when someone is at risk of imminent harm from firearms, it said.
Gun control advocates say the turnaround in Vermont and other states has been propelled in part by the groundswell of student-led lobbying efforts and protests calling for firearms restrictions.
After the Parkland massacre, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature swiftly passed a bill that raised the age requirement and set a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and allowed the arming of some school personnel. The measure was signed into law by another Republican with strong NRA credentials, Governor Rick Scott.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Susan Thomas)