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Vermont faces lawsuit over gun control laws

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(The Center Square) — Gun rights groups are challenging a pair of Vermont laws that ban “high-capacity” magazines and set a 72-hour waiting period to purchase firearms.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs argues that the state laws violate gun owners’ Second Amendment rights and ask a federal judge to grant an injunction blocking the state from enforcing the restrictions.

One law, approved in 2018, bans high-capacity magazines by limiting gun owners to 10 rounds for rifles and 15 rounds for a pistol. Another contested law, approved last year, sets a 72-hour waiting period for purchasing firearms.

“Based on the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, these laws are unconstitutional,” lawyers for the federation wrote in the 50-page complaint. “Plaintiffs are entitled to preliminary and permanent relief against such unconstitutional enactments, which Defendants are charged with enforcing.”

The lawyers cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.

In that ruling, the court’s conservative majority affirmed the constitutional right to carry firearms in public places for self-defense, which has prompted reviews of firearm licensing laws in Vermont and other states that restrict gun ownership.

The federation’s lawyers argue that the size of a magazine capacity is a “critical component of self-defense” and that the limits jeopardize the safety of gun owners. They cited the example of a Florida home invasion where the homeowner was reportedly unable to stop an attacker because he had used all of the rounds in his .38 caliber revolver.

“The lesson to be learned from this example is that it is better to have more, not fewer, rounds when defending yourself, especially against an armed attacker or attackers,” they wrote.

The federation’s lawsuit also targets a law approved last year that set a 72-hour waiting period in addition to expanding the state’s red flag law and setting gun storage rules.

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, allowed the changes to become law without his signature after noting that he doubted the 72-hour waiting period would survive a legal challenge.

“As with the magazine ban, there is no precedent or historical practice to support a law that denies Vermonters’ rights to responsibly purchase, possess, and carry firearms for at least 72 hours or any other period of time, except as punishment for a crime,” lawyers for the federation wrote in the complaint.

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