In a private meeting with New York legislators on Monday, Hillary Clinton reportedly claimed that Vermont—home of Sen. Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination—is an important source of guns used by criminals in the Empire State. "She said that it's going to be coming out in the very near future that many of the catastrophes that have taken human lives in the State of New York have been the product of guns coming over the border from Vermont," state Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) told Politico. "That's the first I heard it. I think it caught everybody's attention, and we're looking forward to learning more about it."
The main reason this complaint about Vermont was news to Kennedy: It isn't true. In 2014, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 55 crime guns seized in New York were traced to dealers in Vermont. That represented 1.2 percent of the 4,585 gun traces in which the location of the original sale could be identified. Vermont ranked 15th among the states where the crime guns were sold, far behind New York (1,397), Virginia (395), Georgia (386), Pennsylvania (371), and Florida (292).
Maybe Kennedy misunderstood Clinton, but probably not. Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) had a similar recollection. "She said that many of the guns that are found to be involved in crimes in this state are found to have their origins in Vermont," he told Politico. "The implication was just that many of the guns that are involved in crimes in this state come from Vermont. That was the implication I got."
Even if Clinton's claim were close to accurate, it would prove absolutely nothing about Sanders' views on gun control, which presumably are what she was trying to impugn by implication. Sanders frequently mentions that he represents a state with few firearm restrictions, as part of his pitch for constructive engagement between Second Amendment supporters and advocates of new gun laws. He brags about his low grades from the NRA, and his stance is quite similar to Clinton's. Although he (unlike Clinton) is skeptical of holding gun manufacturers and dealers liable for the criminal actions of their customers, he supports a federal "assault weapons" ban and "universal background checks" for gun buyers.
Yesterday Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Clinton supporter, described her claim about his state as the sort of lie politicians feel compelled to tell when they run for office. "It is campaign season," Shumlin said. "Therefore, things are sometimes said by all the candidates that sometimes aren't entirely accurate. I would just say this: I think you'd have a hard time convincing Vermonters that New York's crime problems are coming from Vermont." According to WCAX, the CBS station in Burlington, "Shumlin also said that there's no question that heroin in Vermont comes from out of state and is often brought in by New Yorkers."