Vermont House passes bill that closes ‘Charleston Loophole’

January 28, 2022 GMT

The Vermont House of Representatives passed legislation Friday designed to keep firearms out of hospitals and give law enforcement up to 30 days to extend the maximum background check waiting period for people seeking to buy firearms.

In a statement, Democratic House Speaker Jill Krowinski said the bill takes a “much-needed step” in closing the “Charleston Loophole” and ensure that law enforcement agencies would have time to conduct a background check before someone can purchase a firearm.

The Vermont bill, first passed by the Senate last year, also clarifies that a judge has the authority to order a defendant to relinquish their firearms while an emergency relief from abuse order is in effect.

The Charleston Loophole is a provision in federal law that gives a gun seller discretion on whether to proceed with a sale if the FBI fails to determine within three business days whether a buyer is eligible to purchase a gun. It was used by the shooter in a 2015 massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to buy a gun.


“Today, the House overwhelmingly passed gun safety legislation that would protect Vermonters while respecting our long history of hunting and responsible gun ownership,” Krowinski said. “S.30 takes steps to ensure that guns are kept out of the hands of individuals with a history of domestic abuse or other dangerous behaviors, and out of our hospitals where people are seeking care and the presence of guns is unnecessary.”

Before the bill, which has changed significantly from what was initially passed by the Senate, can become law it must be passed again by the Senate.

When asked about the measure, Bill Moore, firearms policy analyst for the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said lawmakers should have held live hearings.

“We continue to oppose the development of complex policy legislation until the legislature returns to meeting in person,” Moore said Friday. “The critical aspect missing from the remote session is the relationships and interactions between legislators themselves. No good legislation can truly come from this remote session, with its isolation and lack of human scale.”

But Conor Casey, the executive director of Gun Sense Vermont, applauded the measure. He said closing the loophole in Vermont would only affect an estimated 3% of gun sales.

“Firearms have no place in our hospitals, which have increasingly become highly stressed, emotionally charged environments during the pandemic,” he said in a statement.