Amendment looks to exempt manufacturers from magazine limit

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Lawmakers have drafted an amendment that would exempt Century International Arms, a firearm company that employees more than 100 people in northern Vermont, from legislation that the company says would “significantly impact” business.

The House on Friday gave preliminary approval to S.55, a bill that includes several gun restrictions, from expanding background to private sales to increasing the age to purchase of gun in Vermont to 21.

Another provision calling for a 10-round magazine limit could have a dramatic affect on Century Arms, an importer, exporter and manufacturer of firearms with a facility in the Franklin County town of Georgia. The company, founded in 1961, is headquartered in Florida.

“This bill would significantly impact Century’s business operations in Vermont,” Brady Toensing, a lobbyist representing Century Arms, said Monday. “They have dozens of high-paying, high-level manufacturing jobs in Georgia, Vermont and there are dozens of more employees at other companies that support their operations in Vermont.”

Third reading, which is a final vote on S.55, is set for Tuesday morning on the House floor. Representatives voted 85-59 in support of the bill on second reading.

Rep. Corey Parent, R-St. Albans, said Monday that he’s working with other lawmakers, including Reps. Eileen Dickinson, R-St. Albans Town, and Patrick Brennan, R-Colchester, on an amendment to S.55 that would apply to all importers, exporters and manufacturers.

According to the draft amendment, the 10-round limit would not apply to magazines that are:

– manufactured, imported, transferred, or possessed by a manufacturer or importer licensed under federal law:

  • for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the U.S. attorney general, or for product development;
  • for repair and return to the person from whom it was received; or
  • for transfer in foreign or domestic commerce for delivery and possession outside Vermont.

“The final transaction couldn’t be to a Vermonter, but would at least keep them doing what they do in the state of Vermont,” Parent said of Century Arms.

Most of the pistols and rifles that the company imports, exports and manufactures have a magazine size of more than 10 rounds, Toensing said.

“I know it’s a significant portion of their sales,” he said. “They are made to have a capacity of higher than 10 rounds because that’s what the public wants.”

The 10-round limit would mean company could not manufacture, import or export products that are in demand in most of the states in the country, Toensing said, putting it at a competitive disadvantage.

“If you’re in state that doesn’t allow you to produce or manufacture higher capacity magazines then you would not be able to sell those to state’s that have more freedoms and allow their citizens to purchase those firearms,” he said.

Parent, during debate on the House floor on Friday, said he would be proposing an amendment that he intended to present on Tuesday. Parent said Monday he is working to get Independent, Democratic and Republican support.

“To me,” he said, “this really about protecting those 100-plus jobs in Franklin County.”

Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, who sponsored the provision for the 10-round magazine limit said Friday during the debate that he was willing to work with Parent on such an amendment.

LaLonde also spoke about why he proposed the measure, pointing to written testimony provided to the House Judiciary Committee from Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill.

“It is my professional opinion that a 10 round magazine limit fairly balances these competing rights and, if enforced, would offer victims and first responders a brief window to act during a mass shooting incident,” Cahill wrote.

The ban on high-capacity magazines exempts possession of those legally owned before the legislation goes into effect.

During the debate Friday, Brennan called such a ban of high-capacity magazines unenforceable because they don’t come with serial numbers and are not dated.

The House vote Friday on the magazine limit provision of S.55 was 79-66, with Parent, Dickinson and Brennan voting against the measure.

A woman who answered the phone at Century Arms on Monday and identified herself as Sandy, said the company would have no comment and hung up the phone.

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