DOVER — A series of bills aiming to strengthen gun control in Delaware is quickly making its way through the General Assembly, with two bills already cleared one chamber and headed to the next step.
One week after Gov. John Carney and top Democratic lawmakers announced a package of gun control measures, House Bill 450 and Senate Bill 6 have both passed the House of Representatives and the State Senate, respectively.
Both measures have received the support of the Delaware Business Roundtable, a non-partisan, volunteer consortium of state CEOs. The organization said that it views it “critically important” for all stakeholders to work together to improve public safety.
“We hope this marks the first step of a continuing effort to address gun violence protection, such as making sure that increased scrutiny, training and record keeping for gun purchases are in place through a permitting system that has saved lives in other states,” the Delaware Business Roundtable wrote.
HB 450 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, receipt, possession, or transport of assault-style weapons in Delaware, according to a legal definition. The prohibition would include popular firearms such as AK-47s, AR-15s, UZIs and similar weapons.
“We believe we have reached a tipping point, a time when policymakers must enact bipartisan, common sense legislation to strengthen public safety,” the Delaware Business Roundtable continued. “It is imperative that we ensure responsible gun ownership and that legislation be carefully crafted to strictly focus on keeping dangerous weapons from those who are least capable of safely and properly storing and using a firearm.”
HB 450 passed the House 22-19, with no Republican lawmakers supporting it. Four Democrats also did not support the measure: Rep. Andria Bennett (D-Dover) Rep. Bill Bush (D-Dover), Rep. William Carson (D-Leipsic/Little Creek) and Rep. Sean Matthews (D-Glasgow/Middletown).
After a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in late May, where 19 elementary school children and two teachers were shot and killed, Carney and members of the General Assembly made it clear the top priority was to pass gun control reform before the session ends on June 30.
During a press announcement, the governor said it was his and the lawmakers’ “obligation to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like we’ve seen across the country from happening here in Delaware.”
House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, who sponsored HB 450, said the goal was to make sure the next Uvalde and Sandy Hook does not take place in Delaware.
“HB 450 is one piece of a puzzle that we have been working to put together for the last several years,” Longhurst said in a statement. “We have worked to address mental health in our schools and communities; we’ve enacted Red Flag laws to identify those who should not be allowed to obtain weapons; we’ve dedicated millions of dollars to making our school buildings safer and more secure; and we’ve worked to reduce the heinous lethality of the firearms in our state by banning bump stocks and other devices. I’m grateful to my colleagues for taking this bold step forward today and look forward to it becoming law.”
HB 450 would also grandfather existing weapons and protect their owners from being misidentified as lawbreakers while placing restrictions on the transportation and use of those weapons.
Earlier this week, an amended SB 6 passed the Senate 13-7, with no Republicans supporting the bill. Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-Middletown/Smyrna) voted against it. The bill bans the sale of large-capacity magazines, defined as magazines capable of holding 17 rounds or more. Elevated penalties will face those who use these kinds of magazines in the commission of crime, and a buyback program will be initiated for those in circulation.
HB 450 now heads to the Senate for consideration, while SB 6 heads to the House.
Republican Lawmakers stand steadfast in their opposition to the slate of gun control reform. Earlier this week, State House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) has argued appropriating millions to a fund for school security and safety, re-establishing state background checks for firearm buys, adding funds to add constables in Delaware schools and more.
“Gun control proposals are controversial and divisive,” Short wrote in a statement. “Regardless of the relative merits of each measure, they tend to be only tangentially focused on what should be our ultimate objective – keeping our schools secure and our children and educators safe from harm.”
However, the Delaware Business Roundtable wrote that it sees that no segment of our society is “immune from gun violence.”
“While enacting gun safety legislation is one way to improve public safety, we recognize there are a number of other contributing factors that must be addressed, such as poverty, education, the availability of mental health services, school building safety and others. We look forward to participating in an ongoing dialogue on these issues as a means for improving public safety for all Delawareans,” it wrote.