Call to Action: Voice Your Support for Universal Background Checks and Raising the Age to Purchase Firearms to 21

Last week, in a historic about-face, the Vermont Senate passed several measures aimed at protecting public safety through gun control legislation. S.221, a bill that would temporarily remove guns in cases of "extreme risk," passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 30-0. A more contentious bill, S.55, also passed the Senate and would implement universal background checks and raise the age a Vermonter can purchase firearms to 21. These bills now head to the House Judiciary Committee for debate. Please email the House Judiciary Committee and let them know you support removing guns in cases of extreme risk, universal background checks and raising the purchase age of firearms to 21. Thank you!

Here is the letter Rebecca Bell, MD, MPH, FAAP sent to the Vermont Senate on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter and the Vermont Medical Society, with Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe reading from the letter on the Senate floor:

Raising the Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms


Rebecca Bell, MD, MPH, FAAP -

Pediatric Critical Care, UVM Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UVM College of Medicine Executive Board member, VT Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

First, on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter and the Vermont Medical Society, I would like to commend the Senate for the actions taken yesterday to increase the safety of all Vermonters. 


As a Pediatric Critical Care physician, I care for infants, children and adolescents who are seriously ill or injured. This includes children injured or killed by firearms. These injuries can be self-inflicted or inflicted by others, intentional or unintentional.


Intentional firearm injuries due to assault or suicide attempt are often the result of impulsive acts. Research shows that young adults who attempt suicide impulsively tend to use more violent means, such as firearms, and that young people who complete suicide are significantly more likely to be experiencing a short-term crisis. Outcomes of assault or suicide attempt vary widely depending on the means or methods used. Use of firearms in either case is more likely to result in permanent disability or death compared to other means. Limiting access to firearms among those at risk for hurting themselves or others is an important way to prevent injury, homicide and suicide.


Unintentional firearm injuries are also a problem among children and adolescents. Often, both the victim and the shooter are children or young adults. Unfortunately, firearm safety courses have been found to be ineffective at preventing unsafe firearm behavior among children. The most reliable way to keep children safe is to prevent them from accessing firearms.


As pediatricians and physicians, we counsel families on firearm safety. This includes educating about the risk of having a firearm in the home and methods to reduce risk with safe firearm storage. For families with adolescents at risk for self-harm or for harming others, we recommend removing firearms from the home, at least temporarily. Recommending safe storage or removal of firearms can be ineffective if adolescents can purchase their own firearm legally without consent or knowledge of the parent. Raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms to 21 years of age is one important part of the effort to reduce firearm injury and death. 


The Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing over 200 Vermont Pediatricians, and the Vermont Medical Society, representing over 2000 Vermont Physicians and Physician Assistants supports raising the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21.



  • Simon, T.R., Swann, A.C., Powell, K.E., Potter, L.B., Kresnow, M., and O’Carroll, P.W.  Characteristics of Impulsive Suicide Attempts and Attempters. SLTB. 2001; 32(supp):49-59.
  • Hardy M. S. Teaching firearm safety to children: failure of a program. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2002;23(2):71–76.

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