Republicans announced two pieces of legislation March 14 to halt illegal gun transfers.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, announced a bill that would increase first-offense penalties for straw purchases, when someone legally buys a firearm for someone who is prohibited by law from buying one.
Lopez’s bill would increase the penalty for a first-offense from a maximum of three years in prison to a maximum of five years in prison.
“This sends a strong message that these types of gun transactions in Delaware will not be tolerated,” Lopez said in a press release. “These are the people we want to go after – the criminals – not the law-abiding citizen.”
Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said he would introduce a bill to create a new crime for selling a firearm to a person prohibited from owning one.
Under Delaware law, knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon, mentally ill person or other prohibited person is a felony. Lavelle’s bill would make it a misdemeanor for someone to unknowingly transfer a firearm to a person prohibited from owning one.
“I call this a sellers beware bill, as the burden for a responsible sale will be on the seller, but with no mandate or registration from the government,” Lavelle said in a press release. Lavelle said the legislation would not impact responsible gun owners – those who know the people they sell guns to. “I don’t believe this impacts them at all, and it will be another tool for law enforcement,” he said.
“If I’m selling to a friend and we’re hunting buddies or I’ve known him since elementary school and I simply know he’s not a convicted felon or prohibited person, that’s fine, there’s no need for a criminal background check, ” Lavelle said.
Democratic Gov. Jack Markell unveiled a bill March 6 that would require background checks for most private gun sales, with some exceptions for immediate family members and law enforcement officers.
Lavelle said a background check should be required only when selling a gun to a stranger.
“If some guy shows up at your porch and you sell him a gun, you better make sure he’s not a felon because you can’t simply fall back and say, ‘I didn’t know.’ That’s when you go to the gun shop, and pay a nominal fee for a background check. If he says, ‘No thanks,’ you don’t sell him the gun,” Lavelle said.