This evening, I reviewed the four pieces of “draft” legislation that have been released by the Delaware legislature. To put it mildly, I’m not impressed. We’ll have a copy of the bills up on our website shortly. None of these have been assigned an official number yet, and it’s possible that they could be modified prior to being introduced in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here’s a summary of each of them.
UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
Sponsor: Rep. Longhurst
“No unlicensed person shall sell of transfer any firearm…” This is how the new universal background check bill starts. In the eyes of the ATF, loaning a gun to a friend counts as a transfer. If this law goes into effect, it would become illegal to load your buddy a firearm without getting a background check performed.
“An unlicensed person means any person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer.” A CCDW permit doesn’t count.
Legislators don’t want to keep you from handing down your favorite gun to family members, though. There is an exemption for tranfers to “a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse of the seller or transferor.” I suppose that’s supposed to lessen the sting of the legislation.
First time violations will be class A misdemeanors, while subsequent violations will be class G felonies.
The legislation requires dealers to “maintain a record of all criminal history background checks under this section…” This is nothing more than a de facto registration scheme. Legislators might tell us that there is no intent to register firearms, but what else would the maintenance of transfer records be considered?
Dealers are going to be forced to do background checks under this legislation. Any dealer that refuses to do a background check “shall be considered adequate cause to suspend the license of said dealer for a period not to exceed 30 days per occurrence.” This is the government forcing private businesses to offer a particular service.
Overall, this legislation will create a registration system and force businesses to perform background checks whenever requested. This legislation provides the government with a gross overreach of their authority.
MANDATORY REPORTING OF LOST FIREARMS
Sponsors: Senators Henry, Blevins, Poore, and Peterson; Representatives Barbieri, Baumbach, Heffernan, Keeley, Kowalko, Longhurst, Osienski, B. Short, Mitchell, Viola
As previously reported, this bill is totally unenforceable. While the intentions might be good, it would be very easy to feign ignorance when it comes to lost or stolen firearms. “I didn’t know it was lost or stolen.” It would be nearly impossible for law enforcement to disprove that statement. This legislation is a hammer in search of a nail.
BAN ON “HIGH CAPACITY” MAGAZINES
Sponsor: Representative Mitchell
This bill would make it “unlawful for any person to possess unlawfully, manufacture, sell, purchase, receive, transfer, or deliver and large-capacity magazine.” For the purpose of this legislation, “large-capacity” means able to hold more than 10 rounds. It does not appear that feeding tubes of .22LR rifles would be included in this legislation.
To make it even more convoluted, since legislators acknowledge that a large number of these magazines are already in circulation, “unlawful possession shall not include situations in which the firearm and the magazine are unloaded, the firearm is secured in a case, and the firearm is otherwise not readily accessible.” In other words, you can keep your standard capacity magazines to use at the range or for use as home defense equipment. You just can’t carry your favorite Glock, Sig, S&W, or other handgun in public with more than 10 rounds in the magazine.
If you are caught with a standard capacity magazine loaded (but not in a firearm) and in a public place, you will be guilty of a class A misdemeanor (first offense) or a class G felony (second offense and beyond). However, if you happen to have a standard capacity magazine loaded in a firearm, and you are caught, you are now a felon. First offense is a class G felony, and second and subsequent offenses are class D felonies.
Like our federal legislators, and the legislators in several other states, some Delaware legislators believe that limiting a citizen’s access to standard capacity magazines will make the public safer. However, there has been no study made that links the banning of these magazines to a safer public.
POSSESSION OF A FIREARM OR DESTRUCTIVE WEAPON IN A SAFE SCHOOL ZONE
Sponsor: Representative Scott
This bill would make it illegal to have a firearm on school property or in any public place within 300 feet of any school. Public places means an area accessible to the public includes, but is not limited to, sidewalks, streets, alleys, parking lots, parks, playgrounds, and any other outdoor location.
There are exemptions, though.
It would be permitted to have a firearm in a motor vehicle on a public roadway or on private property not owned, operated, leased, or rented by any public or private school; or, while directly en route from a motor vehicle to or from a private residence, business, or private property. It would also be permitted to have a firearm in a motor vehicle on school property, provided the owner is attending a legitimate school function.
What it would certainly make illegal, judging from the bill, is simply walking down the sidewalk carrying a firearm for self-defense, provided the sidewalk passes within 300 feet of a school. Those found guilty would face a class D felony.
Again, this is a bill with good intentions that has the ability to snag otherwise innocent people and make felons out of them. What is the reasoning behind the 300 foot buffer? Why not 500 feet? Or 100 feet? Or better yet, if the legislature feels it is necessary to create a penalty for having (but not using) a firearm near a school, why not limit it to on school property itself, without a buffer zone?
These four bills are bad for Delaware gun owners. They will do nothing to make the community safer, nor will they do anything to punish more severely those who are already breaking the laws on the books. If legislators are truly concerned about protecting the public and making a dent in crime, the correct answer is to enforce the laws already on the books and ensure that criminals who use firearms in the commission of a crime are given mandatory sentences that cannot be shortened on a plea deal, appeal, or parole/probation.
Gun control has nothing to do with crime control. It has everything to do with the control of people and their rights. Now is the time to contact our state legislators and tell them in no uncertain terms that we are not willing to give up our rights in exchange for the false pretense of enhanced public safety.