Taking a look at gun control legislation

January 25, 2014

A few folks went fishing during the brief period of warm weather we had over the weekend and on Monday. All the reports I received were from freshwater anglers who found success with pickerel, bass and perch. Stickbaits and jigs were the top baits.

The rest of this week into early next week look to be very cold and windy. Not ideal for fishing or hunting.

Hunters may be able to use the snow to track deer, but I suspect the animals will be holding tight to cover until the weather improves. In spite of the weather, there will be hunters afield as deer seasons end Feb. 1.

Gun control

A bill that would have required medical professionals to turn in people they deemed unsuitable to possess firearms has failed again in the Delaware Senate. I must agree that putting the burden of determining who may or may not possess firearms on doctors makes them liable should the person so selected decide to put up a legal defense. I would think any good trial lawyer worth his retainer would jump at the chance to try that type of case.

While this bill has failed, something must be done to keep as many people as possible with mental illness away from firearms. Going back to that horrible day in Newtown, Conn., the shooter was mentally ill, but because his mother decided to keep him at home and away from the public, no one else knew the depth of his illness. She did make a fatal mistake by allowing him access to guns and even took him to a shooting range. Under these circumstances, it would have been impossible for a medical professional to have warned the authorities.

The shooter at the Colorado movie theater was also mentally ill and did seek help. His condition did not seem particularly serious to the doctor, and she was as surprised as everyone else when he opened fire.

Under current law, if you are convicted of a felony you may not possess a firearm or even be in a house where firearms are present. If you are committed to a mental health facility for a violent act, you may possess a firearm once released. Perhaps we need to take a look at that situation.

While health treatments have come a long way from what they were in the 1950s, they are not perfect. A person with cancer can be cured for a period of time, but then the cancer may return. I believe the same is true of mentally disturbed persons. They may go to a hospital where they receive the best treatment and be declared safe to return to society. Then they encounter a situation they didn’t see while hospitalized, and that can bring all the hostility rushing back.

I know this happens with child predators who seem to return to their old habits with disturbing regularity. While I am sure there are numerous statistics that can prove how successful modern treatments are, I really don’t want to take the chance of having a sexual predator as an elementary school teacher or a person with a record of violence able to own a gun.

I am aware that the gun lobby worked hard and successfully to kill the original Senate bill, but I would hope they might get behind a bill to keep guns away from people who have records of violent mental illness. It is only a small step in the fight to make our society a bit safer, and I promise it will not stop all the senseless killing, but I also think it is something that needs to be done.

Salt Water Sportsman Seminar

On a lighter note, the traveling Salt Water Sportsman Seminar will make a Feb. 1 stop in Annapolis, Md. This is as close as the show will be to Delaware, and it only takes about an hour and a half to drive over.

In full disclosure, my oldest son Ric is cohosting this seminar along with George Poveromo. Ric is the regional editor for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, while George does a regular column in the magazine and runs the entire seminar series.

The location is the Doubletree by Hilton at 210 Holiday Court in Annapolis. The seminar begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. with a break for lunch. The cost is $55 and includes a seminar workbook and several other goodies. Everyone who attends is eligible for some very good door prizes including a fishing trip to Bimini Sands. The grand prize is a Mako Pro Skiff 17cc that will be awarded after all eight seminars are completed. I hope to see you there.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at