The National Rifle Association announced on Thursday it would back a lawsuit filed against Vermont's new ban on certain firearms magazines.
The group said it will support a suit filed by the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Vermont State Rifle and Pistol Association, a group of sporting goods stores, and Vermont citizen Leah Stewart. The plaintiffs allege that the new ban on rifle magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and handgun magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds violates the Vermont Constitution.
The magazine ban was part of new gun-control legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott (R.) last week. Scott and his Florida colleague Gov. Rick Scott have both signed new gun-control legislation in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead and the protests for new gun and magazine bans that followed. Both Republican governors are now facing NRA-backed lawsuits over their new laws.
The NRA said Vermont's magazine ban, which affects the magazines that come standard with many of the most popular rifles and handguns on the market, will outlaw ammunition feeding devices that millions of Americans currently own.
"The magazines Vermont has now banned are owned by millions of law-abiding Americans," Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. "In fact, nearly half of all magazines in the nation would now be deemed ‘large capacity' by Vermont."
Cox said magazine bans have not been effective in other states and, in his view, only serve to punish law-abiding citizens.
"Vermont claims its new ban will advance public safety, but we know from other states that have experimented with this type of misguided ban that violent criminals are not going to adhere to the ban," Cox said. "The only people really harmed by the ban are the law-abiding citizens who will now be forced to defend themselves, their families, and their homes from violent attack by using sub-standard ammunition magazines."
Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said the new ban will affect thousands of citizens in the small state who use them for everything from self and home defense to sport shooting.
"Many of the most popular rifles and pistols come standard with magazines in excess of these new limits," Bradley said. "The Vermont Constitution's protection of the right to bear arms prevents the state from requiring law-abiding Vermonters to defend themselves and their families with sub-standard firearm magazines. We are confident the courts are going to quickly strike down this obviously unconstitutional ban."
Attorney General T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, promised to "vigorously defend" the magazine ban. Gov. Phil Scott said he believes the law is constitutional.
"I'm confident the new law is consistent with the Vermont Constitution and appreciate the attorney general's support and commitment in defending state law," Scott told the Vermont publication Seven Days.
The NRA disagreed with Scott's assessment.
"We are pleased to have been able to support the plaintiffs in this fight to vindicate their rights under the Vermont Constitution, and we expect the Vermont Courts to swiftly strike down this plainly unconstitutional ban," Cox said.