Three gun control bills that received heavy opposition during a recent committee meeting have lost legislative support and will not move forward until problems with the bills are resolved.
After declaring earlier in the session that gun control bills would be heard on the Senate floor for a vote, Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Hawk's Nest, released a statement May 13 saying Senate bills 68, 70 and 82 will not be released from the executive committee that he chairs.
“After several hours of public debate, these measures simply lack the support they need to pass on the Senate floor,” McBride said. “At the start of this session, I had intended to have a floor vote on all legislation related to firearms. But, at this time, support in the Senate to move SB 68, 70 and 82 forward is almost nonexistent.”
Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, would have banned assault-style rifles in the state, while SB 70 sought to prohibit high-capacity magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. SB 82 would have required permits for gun owners.
The three bills were heard May 8 in committee to a packed crowd of gun supporters and gun control advocates. Speakers during the more than two-hour hearing overwhelmingly opposed gun control measures.
Committee member Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, took up nearly the first half of the hearing questioning the legality of all three bills. He said the committee should not take action on the bills because there are too many questions about how they would work. Penalites for the first violations of the permit and magazine bills started with misdemeanors raising to felonies for subsequent offenses. Anyone violating the assault-style rifle ban would have been charged a felony.
“These bills are not clear. There should be clarity,” Hocker said.
In McBride's statement he reiterated some of the issues raised during the hearing which included the effectiveness of the legislation to achieve its purpose, the constitionality of gun control bills and the effect of criminalizing gun ownership which is currently legal.
“It is my hope that holding this legislation in committee will allow the sponsors to build a consensus that does not currently exist,” McBride said. “I believe these are issues that should be resolved through negotiation, if possible; they will not be resolved by protracted debate on the floor of the Delaware Senate.”