Does easy access to guns make Vermont safer?

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In a post on his campaign Facebook page from October 2015, Libertarian state Assembly candidate in Wisconsin’s 54th District Jordan Hansen stated, “Vermont has had constitutional carry for over 220 years, and has been among the safest places in the world for over 220 years.”

Gun Owners of Vermont president Ed Cutler made a similar claim in January 2015. Gun Owners of Vermont is a pro-gun owners’ rights advocacy group.

“Vermont, for over 220 years, has never had permits, has never had registration and has never had any serious gun control laws. And for 220 years, Vermont has been the safest place in this nation and one of the safest places in the world,” Cutler said, according to a story by The Trace in July 2015.

There are three parts to Hansen’s claim. Hansen stated, “Vermont has had constitutional carry for over 220 years.” Second, Vermont “has been among the safest places in the world for over 220 years.” Third, Hansen is implying constitutional carry makes Vermont safer.  

The United States Concealed Carry Association in West Bend describes constitutional carry this way: “You don’t have to buy a permission slip from the government to exercise your natural born and unalienable right to self-protection. … If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you can carry a gun.”

In fact, Vermont has few restrictions on who can own a gun. In 2015, the state did make it illegal for a person convicted of a violent crime to possess a firearm. True to Hansen’s statement, constitutional carry has been in place in Vermont since the state was founded in 1791 — 225 years ago.

Putting aside Hansen’s claim that Vermont is the safest place in the world — which would be difficult to prove — is it the safest state? The answer is yes.

In 2014, World Atlas ranked Vermont as the safest state in the United States in terms of violent crime. According to the article, the FBI defines violent crime as murder and rape as well as robbery and aggravated assault. As of 2014, Vermont had a violent crime rate of 99.3 per 100,000 population. That year, the national average was 365.5 per 100,000 — making Vermont far safer than the average.

Interestingly enough, Alaska, which changed its gun laws to mirror Vermont’s in 2003, was the most violent U.S. state in 2014. Alaska’s violent crime rate was 635.8 per 100,000 people — more than six times higher than Vermont’s.

But has Vermont been the safest for 220 years? The FBI has only been gathering Uniform Crime Reports since 1930, so it is unknown whether Vermont has been the among the safest states for 220 years — making that part of Hansen’s claim unprovable.

Hansen also implied that widespread access to guns in Vermont makes the state safer.

But here, Vermont is average when it comes to gun ownership. According to a 2015 article published in the journal Injury Prevention, 28.8 percent of Vermonters reported owning a gun in 2013, compared to the national average of 29.1 percent.

So why is Vermont safer? The FBI said several factors determine whether an area has a high crime rate, such as degree of urbanization, demographics including youth concentration, poverty level, divorce rates and the strength of law enforcement. Absent from the list is the rate of gun ownership.

On one measure, Vermont might be expected to be safer. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Vermont, with a population of 626,042, had the second-most rural population, with 61.1 percent living outside of urban areas in 2010.

The Observatory has three separate rankings on the Veritas Scale for Hansen’s claim.

The claim, “Vermont has had constitutional carry for over 220 years” is verified.


The claim that Vermont “has been among the safest places in the world for over 220 years,” is mostly true, at least as far as the United States is concerned.


But it is unobservable as to whether the wide access to guns makes Vermont a safe place.




“Uniform Crime Reporting Program,” Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics,
Gun Owners of Vermont,
“Alaska Passes Broad Right To Carry Law,” National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action.
“Alaska Passes Broad Right To Carry Law,” National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action.
Benson, Eric. “Vermont’s Long, Strange Trip to Gun-Rights Paradise,” The Trace, July 9, 2015.
“Constitutional Carry,”
“Estimated violent crime total,” Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics.
Kalesan Bindu, Katherine M. Keyes, Marcos D. Villarreal and Sandro Galea, “Gun ownership and social gun culture,” Injury Prevention.
Interview with Ed Cutler, Sept. 29, 2016.
“Jordan Hansen for 54th State Assembly,” Facebook.
“Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Vermont,” Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Tim Schmidt, “Constitutional Carry,” United States Concealed Carry Association.
Tim Schmidt, “The Story Of The USCCA.”
“United States 2015 Population Estimate,” United States Census Bureau.
“Contact the United States Concealed Carry Association,” USCCA.
“Variables Affecting Crime,” Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Vermont Gun Laws,” NRA-ILA.
“Violent Crime Rate By State,” World Atlas.
“2010 Census Urban Lists Record Layouts,” United States Census Bureau.
“2014 Crime in the United States — Violent Crime,” FBI.
“2010 Census Urban Lists Record Layouts.” United States Census Bureau.
“Gun-related deaths.” National Journal Graphic.

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