Courts & Corrections

More Vermont guns traced to out-of-state crime, but sample remains small

More Vermont guns are being used in crimes committed outside the state, according to a federal study.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) found that in 2013, adjusting for population, Vermont has the highest rate of guns traced and recovered in other states after being used for criminal activity.

GunsBarrels-SLIDERThe study found that 23.5 guns per 100,000 Vermont residents — 147 total — were recovered in crimes committed outside the state. New Hampshire, at 22.3 guns per 100,000 residents, has the second-highest gun export rate of the six New England states; Massachusetts has the lowest rate, at 3.7 guns per 100,000 residents, the study found. The national average is 15.2 guns per 100,000 people, the ATF report said.

The report, which was released last week, also stated that the share of crime-related guns connected with “dangerous drugs” in Vermont rose to 52 percent in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2012 and 5 percent in 2011.

Ann Braden, president of Gun Sense Vermont, said these are statistics worth taking seriously.

“Vermonters think of Vermont being a leader of other states,” Braden said. “The system is as strong as the weakest link and right now, we are the weakest link. We’re not being the good neighbor we should be.”

Between 2012 and 2013, the incidents of Vermont guns recovered at crime scenes in New York and Massachusetts increased by more than 48 percent, according to the report. Because only a small percentage of crime-related guns are traced, Braden said, these numbers represent just a fraction of the total flow of illegal guns.

Gun Sense Vermont is lobbying for criminal background checks on all gun sales in the 2015 legislative session. The measure would prevent felons and the severely mentally ill from buying weapons and would require all firearm purchases between a buyer and unlicensed seller to take place in a licensed gun store. The organization says a recent survey shows the measure is supported by 81 percent of likely Vermont voters and 77 percent of gun owners.

Braden said she spoke to a group of “proud gun owners” in Caledonia County last weekend. After seeing the recent statistics, a man told her, “That sells it by itself. Clearly we need to do something.”

Bill Moore, a policy analyst for the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said that guns transported outside Vermont’s borders isn’t necessarily a cause for concern.

“The bottom line is that there’s a certain percentage that come from other states, you could probably find a gun from Vermont in Wyoming, in any state, if you go back far enough,” Moore said. “Guns migrate according to people — honest, lawful gun owners.”

Evan Hughes of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs dubbed Gun Sense Vermont’s news release an “inaccurate attempt to blame Vermont for violent crime in other states.”

“When the raw data sample numbers are so small, a minor increase greatly inflates percentage numbers,” Hughes said.

Hughes pointed to the ATF reports from the past two years. In 2011, of the 1,020 Massachusetts guns traced back, 351 originated from Massachusetts, none from Vermont. In 2012, 12 of 999 total Massachusetts traces came from Vermont.

“No matter how they try to work the numbers, Vermont is simply not a major source of guns in other states,” Hughes concluded.

According to the 2013 raw numbers, only 29 of the 1,571 guns seized by police in Massachusetts were traced to Vermont, compared with 431 from Massachusetts, 121 from New Hampshire, and 91 from Maine. Vermont was traced as the source of 61 crime weapons in New York, the primary destination for Vermont guns.

“It’s wrong to conclude that guns are not an issue in Vermont,” Braden said.

Those numbers don’t take into account the population differences between states and, she added, “You want to be comparing apples to apples.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Vermont guns recovered out-of-state.

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  • Nick Santelli

    And where are those terrible guns manufactured? Oh yeah – Massachusetts and Connecticut. If they don’t want their product returning to them, they should tell the manufacturers to move somewhere else.

  • patrick cashman

    Would it be possible to get a link to the ATF study? I can’t seem to find it on their site.

    • Josh Burlette
      • patrick cashman

        Great. Thank you.

      • Patrick Cashman

        I must still be missing it. There are reports for the individual states at that location, and a rollup data table, but not a report. I suspect it is not the report referenced in the article as the numbers in the data sheet do not match the total in the article. Though to be fair it appears to be a swap as the number originating in Vermont and traced in-state is 129, the number originating in Vermont and traced out of state is 147, which if divided into the 2013 population estimate would give the ratio used in the article.

        • Tom Brown

          Mr. Cashman is correct. The number is 147.

  • Margaret Maclean

    Even one gun from Vermont recovered at a crime scene out of state is one gun too many. Guns trafficked through Vermont are not something for Vermonters to be proud of. If criminal background checks would reduce this issue and help ensure guns stay out of the hands of those that should not have them in the first place, then it should be legislated as soon as possible.

    • Paul Lutz

      Even one gun??? How many people died last year in motor vehicle accidents?

      Perhaps we should take your car away Margaret.

      • Peter Liston

        Good analogy, Paul!!

        If a gun is like a car then we should license gun owners, register guns and make insurance for owning one mandatory — just like we do for cars and drivers.

        I like the way you think !!

        • krister adams

          …and violations (i.e. discharging gun in City limits) punishable by fine, impoundment, jail, etc….just like traffic violations!

        • Paul Lutz

          I don’t think a gun is like a car. But oddly enough, I never hear anyone on the left driving to remove cars from road after there is a fatality. In fact, when there is an accident, we often hear about contributing factors and sometimes it is just blamed on driver error, BUT it is never the cars vault.

          You can have 10 DWI’s and still drive a car on private land. You understand the difference.

          Of course there is also the Bill of Rights and the 2nd amendment, but hey why let facts mees up your opinion.

          • Peter Liston

            “I never hear anyone on the left driving to remove cars from road after there is a fatality.”

            Exactly right. And I don’t believe that reasonable people want to remove all guns from the world. A few radicals might but I certainly don’t. I’m quite fond of my guns.

            However, as the result of traffic fatalities, we DO take measures to make sure that cars manufactured today have proper safety features. We could do the same with guns.

            We license drivers and revoke drivers licenses from people who demonstrate that they are unfit to drive a car. We can do the same with guns.

            We require vehicle registration. We can do the same with guns. (Many other states do and it’s not unconstitutional).

            There are reasonable measures that can be taken to reduce the flow of guns to criminals & violent people that won’t have any significant impact on law abiding gun citizens.

        • Robert Ries
      • Paul Donovan

        Cars are not used for mass murder. Neither are shovels, “other inaminate objects” or Tylenol. Can we stop with the absurd “Somebody choked on a peach pit, should we outlaw peaches?” arguments.

    • Your statement is not compatible with a society ruled by law. It is compatible with a zero-tolerance STASI-GESTAPO society.

      • Sorry, Re: “Even one gun from Vermont recovered at a crime scene out of state is one gun too many.”

    • Robert Ries


      We’d like to see some proof that this works, before adopting.

    • kevin lawrence

      “Even one gun” is pretty silly. Maybe if someone died of heroin– even one person– then we should make it illegal. Another law will make a difference.

  • Jeff Soyer

    Most crime scene guns were swapped for heroin. I doubt that drug dealers and drug buyers are going suddenly start obeying a gun control law that requires them to go to a gun store, pay a fee, and go through a background check.

    • Janice Prindle

      And that is the point: to stop making it so easy for them. It won’t stop every one, but it will help–as we see from examples of other states with stricter laws. At the very least it will force the trade to relocate to some other state.

  • Eddie Garcia

    Caledonia County, huh? Who, when, and where?

  • another brick out of the wall of the 2nd Amendment. I said it before and I’ll say it again, these gun-o- phobes will not stop till they get confiscation. I for one see this as a scare tactic PR stunt coming right down from the White House. This is not Vermonters drumming this up but rather out of State anti gun Orgs.

    Statistics, percentages and opinions do nothing to keep anyone safe. Guns are being blamed for crime in all this and that is just plain USDA approved bovine excrement.

    Define “mentally ill”. This is a very slippery slope they are setting up for all gun owners – it’s a plan put in place along with a mentality that would suggest people who buy guns might sell them to deranged people or people who buy guns legally are deranged, to own guns at all, in the future and with this mentality, your mentality will be questioned. All Gun Owners will be viewed as deranged. Brick by brick.

    Dear Legislators, please remember your Oath of Office – Protect and defend the Constitution. Obviously all Vermonters who would support this type of Law have fallen away from what made this country great, made this country free. The Constitution of the United States.

    Like I’ve said before, now NPR and the MSM will flood the airwaves with scare tactics to push this into Law – NPR is a Government controlled propaganda machine that is being used to further the power of Government and they will push the “Guns are Bad” agenda to take away more of our rights. Brick by brick.

    • Janice Prindle

      You might not be able to define mental illness Mr. Giroux, but the law already does, for licensed gun sales. This new bill would just extend that to the 40 percent of gun sales that aren’t covered by the law–just closing the loophole. If you aren’t engaged in criminal activity you have nothing to fear from such a law. If you sell guns privately on a regular basis, at worst you have the minor inconvenience of doing so at a gun shop. Where you might be surprised on occasion to discover that someone who seems “normal” actually does have a record or a history of mental illness. The article here doesn’t mention the statistics that connect our easy access to guns with suicides, especially teen suicides. Vermont is a leader in that area as well.
      Overall our numbers may look small because our population is small–which is why looking at the rate is important. I know the police chief in Rutland, where the opiate trade is a huge problem, would not mock and dismiss these numbers as “small,” as Mr. Hughes does, totally ignoring the fact that the numbers are increasing. Who gets to decide when the numbers of incidents–guns used in crime, suicides, women seeking relief from domestic
      abuse– is finally “big” enough? I think it should be the majority of Vermonters who want this protection, knowing that every life is precious– and that this measure in no way prevents sportsmen and collectors from enjoying their guns.

      As for your slippery slope paranoia–it makes no sense. Plenty of your NRA colleagues are happily enjoying their guns in states with stricter gun laws than ours, and where the statistics show lower rates of guns involved in suicide, homicide, etc.

      No one imagines closing the loophole will prevent every tragedy or crime, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest it saves many lives. We accept the fact that getting a driver’s license, registering vehicles, requiring inspections and insurance, legislating speed limits and seat belts, all save lives even if they don’t prevent every accident. A gun, like a car, can be a deadly weapon, far more so today than when the Second Amendment was written. Would you argue that 40 percent of drivers should be exempt from motor vehicle laws? That the government is out to get your car, when we passed the no-texting-while-driving law?

      • Kyle Kubs

        “If you aren’t engaged in criminal activity you have nothing to fear from such a law.”

        If these aren’t the most famous of all, of famous last words… To which I’ll answer your cliche with another. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Control & tyranny go hand in dirty hand. Free men don’t ask for a governments permission to maintain their freedom and certainly don’t ask permission to keep their last line of defense against that tyranny.

        “Who gets to decide when the numbers” of law abiding citizens who have broken no laws at all, who lead decent, constructive lives, are considered to be infringed upon too much, just to maintain your comfort level Janice? “Who gets to decide when we have finally been persecuted enough for something we didn’t do?

        Please don’t tell me about slippery slope paranoia. I came from Police State New Jersey. Since my involvement in the late 1980’s NJ gun rights have been eroded more and more and more and more every year. Right now a law is awaiting the Governor to outright ban all possession of dozens of firearms that only a lunatic would consider an “assault rifle” or other egregiously horrible weapon. Small caliber hunting rifles that used to be the xmas presents of 12 year olds and being listed for outright confiscation by the government. They go further and further every year, all while doing nothing at all about the root cause of the criminal state. Been twelve people, mostly children stabbed to death there in just the past few weeks… Nobody is screaming to regulate knives.

        Our cars aren’t standing between corrupt government/corporate puppets and the freedom we apparently take for granted these days, none of us remembering what it was like to live under an oppressive government of tyranny. Our cars don’t protect our families in the middle of the night when the police are at least twenty minutes away.

        • Peter Liston

          The fact that someone, somewhere, introduced bad and overly-restrictive gun legislation does not mean that all proposals are overly-restrictive.

      • Kyle Kubs

        Boy! Isn’t focusing on guns a great way to cover up the fact that nothing is being done about the fundamental causes of violent crime and pass the buck to a bunch of people that have nothing to do with it!

      • David Dempsey

        Burlington police shot and killed a mentally ill man who was wielding a shovel, because they considered the shovel to be a lethal weapon. Maybe hardware stores should be doing background checks on people who buy shovels to make sure they are not mentally ill.

    • krister adams

      “…NPR is a Government controlled propaganda machine that is being used to further the power of Government…”. Ray, you’re totally paranoid. If you are a law abiding gun owner, do not fret.

      • I don’t have to argue with Janice Prindle or Krister Adams -I ONLY HAVE TO WAIT AND WATCH – my claims are unfolding before our very eyes.

        I am going to go out on a limb here and say, “in these situations, where gun laws are being brought into States and fought for politically, usually a school shooting or [other] gun incidence will take place”. Mark this down as my quote/prediction. I see a pattern with this across the board, across the country for the past few years.

        I want to also say that people don’t seem to understand, this is not about guns, it is about our Constitutional Rights – why can’t people understand that?!?! Have people abandoned what made this country great, rugged individualism, self reliance and personal freedom is circling the bowl in this State. Ok, now go back to listening to NPR –

        • Jason Wells

          Completely correct Ray it’s about loosing or having a Constitutional right restricted the right in question is really irrelevant. I as well have been trying to figure why the anti gun crowd had so much trouble figuring this out. Perhaps we can get a response from these folks to explain why they think some rights are worth more than others. Any takers???

          • Paul Donovan

            Every single right is circumscribed by conditions. Even the Second Amendment, something the pro-gun crowd has trouble figuring out. Mr. Giroux is right, in a sense, that the “mentally ill” issue is bogus. Less than 5% of all violent crime (or which gun violence is a subset) is committed by people who are “mentally ill.” The fact is that gun violence is overwhelmingly committed by otherwise “normal” folks. That’s why there’s always a search – after the fact – and a grasping for “signals” in the murderer’s past, and why there so often is statements like, “He seemed like such a normal kid.”

  • Greg Lapworth

    How many of these crime guns were stolen…..rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers? How many were purchased by “straw buyers”? How many traded for drugs by “straw buyers”?
    Really this shouldn’t be a problem in N.Y., Ma., or Conn.. They have some of the most strict gun laws in the US.. Nothing illegal there, it’s the LAW. Passing laws stops gun crime. Yup, yup, yup.

    • Janice Prindle

      It is precisely because of their strict laws that the straw buyers et al. come to Vermont. That is what these statistics are showing us.

      • Bob Pierre

        Janice, Do you know what a “straw buyer” is?

        It is someone who can pass a background check for people that can NOT pass the check.
        Thus proving the hole in the background check. Since according to the ATF and DEA that is how the vast majority of crime guns, outside of thefts, enter the black markets.

        You can “expand” them all you want but straw purchasers will always get through.

        What is next? ” Thought or Intent Police”.

        What do you expect the Straw purchaser to do when he sells the gun to his/her drug dealer or gun runner? “I’m sorry I have to run a back ground check on you before I can take your money/drugs.”

        How do you think all the guns traced back to MA, CT, NY and CA got there?

        Strawbuyers with FOID Cards and clean backgrounds.

        Most common purchaser are the drug user/dealers girl friends.

      • Dennis Riesterer

        They come to vermont to STEAL guns, not buy them as most of them are criminals and could not legally purchase a gun anyway.

      • Jamie Carter

        “It is precisely because of their strict laws that the straw buyers et al. come to Vermont.”

        Janice, look at the actual number for a change… – only 29 of the 1,571 guns seized by police in Massachusetts were traced to Vermont –

        I mean come on… VT’s lax gun control klaws are responsible for a whopping 29 guns of 1500+….

        There are some good arguments that can be made, but that wasn’t one of them…

  • Bob Lombard

    Trying ‘number of guns’ to Vermont’s resident population is an irrelevant red herring. The two numbers are really not related. But then, the Banners know that.

  • Skip Woodruff

    Federal study….The most corrupt and dishonest administration in our history. Again, Federal study conducted by un -trustworthy political hacks ? Give me a break .

    • krister adams

      Man, you fall for Fox News fantasies hook, line & sinker. Worst in history? How about Bush/Cheney? Illegal war, lying to Congress, huge deficits, bank/auto failures, etc., etc., etc.

  • It doesn’t mean VT is “the weakest” state in terms of gun ownership–with a certain natural bleed from any sum of guns owned into crime.

    In terms of individual gun ownership, it means we are the best armed state in the country–which I hope is true. The “strongest”. Not “the weakest”.

    2LT Dennis Morrisseau USArmy [armor –
    Vietnam era] retired. 802 645 9727

  • In the 1990’s the DOJ said there were 2 Million illegal guns in NYC. Now it might be double that or half that — but a trunk full of guns is not statistically significant or significant in any other way. My local gun stores don’t even have 100 guns.

  • Ethan Rogers

    I believe the reporter read the chart wrong – the way I decipher it, source state is on the top and recovery state on the side. The 129 originated in VT and were recovered here, meaning the number should be 276 minus 129 (147), which gives the (meaningless) ratio of 23.5/100k.

  • George Coppenrath

    Re: “Braden said she spoke to a group of “proud gun owners” in Caledonia County last weekend. After seeing the recent statistics, a man told her, “That sells it by itself. Clearly we need to do something.”
    I live in Caledonia County and I have never heard anyone say anything like that… when an author starts using percentage increases rather than raw data, one knows that the data is not strong, e.g., moving from 1 widget to 2 widgets is 100% increase…

  • Peter Washburn

    Janice Prindle writes: “If you sell guns privately on a regular basis, at worst you have the minor inconvenience of doing so at a gun shop. Where you might be surprised on occasion to discover that someone who seems “normal” actually does have a record or a history of mental illness. ”
    Might you, Janice, be subtly inferring that everyone is a bit titched upstairs and either already has or undoubtedly will, sooner or later, have a history of mental illness?
    Youe also subtly suggests that all VT gun owners should seriously consider moving to other states where our NRA colleagues and brothers in arms are already holed up, presumably waiting for the day to come, which it will, when the need to defend ourselves and our families will be upon us.

  • Joseph Whelan

    Judging from the number of defensive statements here on behalf of unrestricted gun ownership, I am coming to the conclusion that the NRA and its conditioned supporters are getting very worried. And with good cause. Since the NRA does next to nothing to stem gun-related violence in America, those of us with a conscience will.

    • Jon Corrigan

      I’d suggest you start, Joseph, with a ‘Gun-Free Home’ sign in your front yard.

    • Kyle Kubs

      Endless persecution of people who have never broken any laws is your way of “stemming gun related violence”?
      Also, why is it other kinds of senseless violence don’t seem to matter? No inanimate objects to blame that violence on?

  • patrick cashman

    Not to beat a dead horse, but can we get a link to the ATF report described in the article? The statistics appear to be drawn from the ATF National Trace Center data, but the article seems to go well beyond that with conclusions not presented in the data. While original work is great, it should be identified as such instead of leaving the impression that the ATF issued findings they did not. And, if this is original work based on the National Trace Center data, it should probably be mentioned that the initial thesis statement mischaracterizes the data that Center provides. The statement “…has the highest rate of guns traced and recovered in other states after being used for criminal activity” is incorrect. The Trace Center data shows guns for which a trace was requested by law enforcement, not necessarily in conjunction with commission of a crime, nor is it limited to a specific type of crime (i.e. maybe a gun crime, maybe seized ancillary to investigation of property theft, etc).

  • Paul Lutz

    Pat, those studies were backed up on an IRS computer. They are no longer available. Please just trust the left, they are smarter than you could imagine and they really have your best interest in mind. Just look at how willing they are to eagerly spend all your money?? They must love you.

  • “When the raw data sample numbers are so small, a minor increase greatly inflates percentage numbers.”

    It was downright startling to come across this little oasis of common sense and basic mathematical literacy. Cheers to Evan Hughes.

  • Kyle Kubs

    This uhm.. “study” is absurd. 147 deaths from guns that came from here instead of there. Well congratulations, you’ve solve world suffering. And we’ll all bury our heads in the sand and pretend that these acts of violence wouldn’t have happened at all otherwise.
    147… Hell, Tylenol has killed thousands more than that.

  • Patrick Cashman

    It appears my previous comment critical of VtDigger’s editorial choices was “moderated” straight out of existence. Which is odd since it complied entirely with the guidance provided in the “About” section regarding keeping comments civil, using a real name, etc. It appears that there is a secret addendum to the comment guidance; “thou shalt not criticize VtDigger”.
    This is a bit sad. I assume that the person who made that decision, at one point, became involved with journalism because they had some drive to make things known instead of keeping them hidden. But the temptation when you control the conversation is apparently too great. When faced with criticism their immediate reaction was to make the criticism go away instead of addressing it.
    As a free tip please remember; if you don’t want to talk about what you are doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

    • Patrick,
      You asserted that the board directs our news coverage, which is simply not the case, as I and others have explained to you repeatedly.
      Commenting on VTDigger is a privilege not a right. We are not obliged to publish false claims in comments about our board or anyone else.
      Anne Galloway

      • patrick cashman


        Well at least we agree the reason for censoring my comment was content, not civility. That’s a start. I would hate to be thought uncivil.

        I have to disagree with your assertion that the comment was expunged because it was “false”. True/false doesn’t appears to be a measure you apply to other topics but instead comes into consideration only when some aspect of your operation is questioned and you require a reason to avoid transparency. Additionally while you have repeated several times your claim to make independent editorial decisions that is also merely an assertion and not an incontrovertible fact. It is certainly open to question as is the rest of my assertion that perhaps you were fed this story by an outside organization. I also enjoy the irony of your steadfast adherence to the “truth” when these comments are underneath an article that contains a patently incorrect and, dare we say, false statement that was pointed out to you but you have failed to correct. I realize you would prefer not to take my word for it, so I would point you towards the disclaimer that appears on the front of the state trace data: “Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime”.

        Regardless Anne, I think you are missing the point of this exercise. You are a running a tax free operation for the public benefit, claiming to run a journalism site. It’s not your Facebook page. By all means establish and enforce rules for comments or get rid of comments all together. But your benevolence and good graces should not be a pre-requisite for the inclusion of comments by contributors as long as you choose to refer to yourself as a journalism operation

        • Tom Brown

          Mr. Cashman: This is Anne Galloway’s reply. She is unable to access the system at this time.

          We work hard to represent multiple points of view, even those you hold in low regard. We don’t expect that our readers will agree with all the information we publish. That’s why we have a comment section that you use on a regular basis. You continue to try to undermine our work by make false accusations. We are not obliged to publish inaccurate statements about our work.

  • fran allen

    While everyone here is having a great time debating this info, I’d like to point out that straw purchases and trading guns for drugs are already ILLEGAL. Adding new laws will probably not change things. Now, if we were talking about a State Police Taskforce, set up to investigate, arrest and jail people who are ALREADY breaking the law, that would make sense. Have a nice day

  • Jason Wells

    Ok how about this solution. I will consider discussing more gun laws restrictions and registrations when you anti gun folks agree to have a background check and receive a permit to exercise your 1st amendment right to complain about my 2nd amendment rights. Fair is fair right?? I mean hey the Dems sure do like their “free speech zones”.

    Not that I would ever agree to such nonsense of course all rights are equal none is higher than another. Our Constitution states that these rights are given to us by our creator whoever you believe that to be and not by the government. What part of Shall Not Be Infringed is just so hard to understand??

    • Paul Lutz

      Great post Jason. You touched on something many young people dont understand or are puposely not taught; our rights are given to us by our creator, not the Goverement. That point can not be stressed enough.

  • Kurt Eckert

    Virtually everything out of Ann Braden’s and her leash holder Shannon Watts mouth is a lie. Why anyone listens to either of them anymore is beyond me. They use false number like “74 school shootings since Newtown”, post pictures of other people’s rallies or skew statistics by switching to percentages when numbers are small. Vermont does not have a gun problem no matter how they try to make it look like we do.

  • I wonder if the author of this piece would care to comment on a rebuttal article found here:

  • Clarke Comollo

    Guns are not bought here by out of State buyers they are traded for drugs. I’m a proud American and gun owner, I am not afraid of anyone coming for my guns, don’t be stupid. Register the guns.

  • And 100% of the heroin that comes into the state comes from NY and MA. Don’t see much concern about this statistic.