Republicans have a strong hold on Sussex County, yet Democrats control both the House and Senate in Delaware. Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, announced several gun-control measures in January, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., including expanding background checks and banning high-capacity magazines.
The House and Senate Majority Caucuses are now working to ensure all of the proposed gun-control measures are passed in the 147th General Assembly.
Markell and other state officials met with parents of victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook May 7. The families said they came to Legislative Hall to urge support for two of the state's proposed gun-control bills.
"Two measures currently before the legislature, House Bill 58 and Senate Bill 16, will surely save lives and keep communities safer. And they will prevent other families from experiencing our grief," said Nicole Hockley in a press release.
Hockley's son, Dylan, 6, was killed during the Sandy Hook shooting.
Senate Bill 16, which would require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police within a week after discovering the firearm is missing, was released from the House Administration Committee May 8.
The bill is meant to target straw purchases, in which a person buys a gun and then transfers it to a person prohibited from owning one. Opponents of the bill say it will only burden law-abiding gun owners and do little to keep guns away from criminals.
Rep. Michael Barbieri, D-Newark, is a sponsor of the bill. “If we were talking about a car being lost or stolen, the owner would report it right away in the hopes of having it returned. The vast majority of law-abiding gun owners are the exact same way,” Barbieri said in a press release.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a final vote.
House Bill 58 – a ban on magazines with a capacity greater than 10 – was released from the House Administration Committee May 1, and also awaits a vote in the House.
Markell signed a bill requiring background checks for most private gun sales into law May 8. “No longer will our laws draw a meaningless distinction between dealers and nondealers when it comes to requiring background checks. And no longer will we tolerate a system that too easily allows criminals to acquire guns and commit more crimes,” Markell said in a press release.
Opponents of Markell’s gun-control measures, including members of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, came out in large numbers to testify against all three bills at committee hearings. One member, Donald Goldsborough, was escorted out of the House Chambers by police during the hearing of SB 16.
9-12 Delaware Patriots Executive Director Theresa Garcia sent a May 8 letter to members of the General Assembly criticizing Markell for inviting witnesses from out of state instead of listening to the testimony of Delaware citizens.
“First it was Mark Kelly, husband of Gabby Gifford, who testified on HB 35, background check bill, and admitted in the hearing, that the shooter passed a background check,” Garcia wrote. “Second up was Colin Goddard, a Virginia Tech victim, who testified on HB 58, the high-capacity magazine bill.”
Garcia argued the Sandy Hook shooting took place in a gun-free school zone, and the shooter knew he would not meet any resistance. “Unless these celebrities and the Sandy Hook parents can explain how gun laws that didn't protect themselves or their families would work here, we have no idea of what they have to offer,” Garcia wrote.
Two more gun-control measures are on their way to the House floor for a vote. House Bill 88, also sponsored by Barbieri, cleared the House Health and Human Development Committee May 8. The bill was drafted by the Attorney General’s Office and aims to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
If the General Assembly passes the bill, HB 88 would expand the mental health prohibition on gun ownership to include individuals determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, individuals found guilty but mentally ill or not guilty by reason of insanity, and individuals found incompetent to stand trial.
The bill would also require mental health professionals to notify law enforcement if they believe a patient is a danger to themselves or others.
The House Judiciary Committee on May 8 released legislation sponsored by Rep. John Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, that would impose a one-year mandatory prison sentence for those convicted of unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm. Currently there is no minimum mandatory sentence for this crime.