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The lawmakers who have taken an oath to represent their constituents are the only ones who vote on legislation, but they’re not the only ones making things happen in the Statehouse every spring – and they’re definitely not the highest-paid.

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The Vermont Senate Wednesday gave overwhelming approval to a controversial bill that aims to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and mentally unstable individuals. But Second Amendment activists will look to stall the legislation in the House.

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The financial relationship between Quebec and Vermont is crucial to both areas: Each year, $5 billion in trade crosses the border, the biggest piece of that being goods imported from Canada into Vermont. Canadian tourists bring about $168 million to Vermont each year and recently there have been improvements to the road that connects the two places.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill ahead of the Legislature’s Friday evening deadline for non-money bills on a 5-0 vote, ensuring the full Senate will consider a scaled back gun bill this year.

The legislation, supported unanimously in the committee Friday, seeks to ban some convicted criminals from possessing weapons and will require people found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others to be reported to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It would take effect on Oct. 1.

Bennington County Sen. Dick Sears says he's not sure Vermonters are ready to embrace safe injection sites for opioid users, despite data showing the facilities decrease overdose deaths and increase the number of addicts seeking treatment.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Lawmakers are making a final effort to push gun legislation through the committee process ahead of a Friday deadline, but significant hurdles remain.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began considering new legislation Wednesday that would prohibit a person convicted of a violent crime from possessing a firearm. Crimes in the proposal include the state’s so-called "listed" crimes — more than 30 serious offenses with hefty prison terms and fines. The proposal also includes any offense involving sexual exploitation of a minor and trafficking of certain drugs.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A push to expand background checks on sales of firearms in Vermont is already dead. But gun-control advocates are trying salvage other provisions in their bill. And they’re getting major support from Vermont police.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Bennington Sen. Dick Sears isn’t generally known for his delicacy. When troubled by circumstance, or the person who brought it about, Sears will, from time to time, lend voice to his dissatisfaction.

And so it was on Wednesday morning, when the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee unleashed an epic verbal smack down on Ed Cutler, the president of Gun Owners of Vermont.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

A controversial effort to expand background checks on gun sales in Vermont has hit a major snag.

Gun-safety advocates are pushing lawmakers to require background checks for sales of firearms at gun shows and over the internet. But Bennington Sen. Dick Sears, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says prospects for the measure are dim.

“I don’t believe that the background check portion of the bill has the votes in this committee to pass out of this committee,” Sears said Tuesday.

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In 2013 Senator Phillip Baruth introduced a bill that would have prohibited the manufacture or sale of high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault weapons. A week later, he backed off the bill citing a lack of support among his colleagues and mounting opposition from outside the Statehouse.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A proposal to require background checks on all gun sales in Vermont has become one of the most divisive bills of the year. And lawmakers learned at a hearing in the Statehouse on Tuesday night just how intense opposition to the legislation has become.

Lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would expand background checks for private gun sales and require Vermont courts to report some mentally ill Vermonters to the national background check system.

The bill has been discussed at length outside of the statehouse for weeks, but lawmakers finally have details to debate.

A new report from a national gun control group says an unregulated online gun market in Vermont is putting more than 100 firearms in the hands of felons and domestic abusers annually.

Under federal law, those groups are not allowed to own guns.

The report from Everytown for Gun Safety says a proposed state law could help regulate the market and keep hundreds of guns from falling into the wrong hands.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Vermont’s largest group of gun rights advocates took a firm stand Friday against legislation they say would only serve to add a burden to law-abiding gun owners and wouldn’t prevent crime.

In fact, according to Chris Bradley, the president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, guns prevent murder.

“When I see households, by census data, that have 43 percent firearms in them, yet we have the lowest murder rate in the nation, I think there’s a pretty strong correlation there,” he said. “It’s self-evident.”

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

The gun-control group that won big in Burlington on Tuesday is promising to continue its advocacy in the Legislature. But the early legislative prognosis for three proposed charter changes is looking grim.

The voters of Burlington approved three charter changes Tuesday that would institute new restrictions on firearm owners in the state’s largest city. But the changes will need sign-off from the Legislature before they can go into effect. And House Speaker Shap Smith on Wednesday said chances for that happening aren’t too promising.

As Vermonters head to the polls for Town Meeting, Burlington voters will decide on one of the most controversial items this year: three changes to the city’s charter that would put stricter controls on guns. Groups on both sides say fundamental rights are at stake and are organizing to get out the vote.

In October of last year, Burlington’s City Council put three gun control amendments to the city’s charter up for voter approval on Town Meeting Day.

Bob Selby/Angela Evancie / VPR

Law enforcement officials in Vermont and surrounding states say Vermont’s high-profile drug problem is feeding an underground market in which guns, not cash, are the currency.

The trade is fueled by the simple economics of supply and demand. Heroin and other hard drugs are cheaper in urban areas of Massachusetts and New York, while guns are abundant and readily available in Vermont because of the state’s lax gun control laws and Vermont’s culture of hunting and shooting sports.

Most firearms in the U.S. start out in a state of perfect legality, sold by a manufacturer to a federally-licensed dealer. But somewhere along the way, some of them cross the line, and become what are called "crime guns."

In Boston, a new initiative is calling attention to the role women play in the illegal gun trade, and the consequences they face.

Dozens of gun rights advocates spoke out against the gun control charter changes at Burlington's city council meeting Oct. 21.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Burlington is moving forward with a trio of gun control measures with wide backing from the mayor, city councilors and the city’s police chief.

Susan Keese- VPR

A coalition called Gun Sense Vermont hopes to succeed where previous advocates have failed.

Vermont is known as one of the least restrictive states when it comes to gun control laws.

The new coalition is promoting modest firearms legislation as a matter of public safety, rather than as an effort at gun control.

The leader of the effort is Ann Braden of Brattleboro. She says her campaign to promote gun safety is about as ‘grass roots’ as an effort could be. The thirty-four-year-old former teacher and mother of two started GunSense Vermont less than a year ago.