Legislative wrap-up 04/19/19

April 23, 2019
Safe storage bill heads back to House

A bill requiring safe storage of firearms when children or a person prohibited from using a firearm is present passed the Senate 13-8 and now heads back to the House for approval. The bill varies from a bill passed earlier in the House in that the burden of proof showing someone failed to store a firearm securely lies with the charging authority, not the person charged.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, said the bill was changed to ensure gun owners safely store their weapons and prevent those firearms from ending up in the wrong hands, not to punish people for circumstances beyond their control. He said the bill does not dictate how a firearm should be safely store.

About 40 people signed up to speak during a Senate committee meeting held before the Senate vote. Fred Rollins of Milton said many people need firearms for protection. “I think you're overreaching your authority,” he said.

Bill Sharp of Ellendale said he opposes gun control. “You're trying to legislate tyranny and treason,” he said. “We're law-abiding citizens. That's why we own firearms.”

Speaking in support of the bill, Dustin Townsend said keeping firearms away from suicidal people will reduce suicide rates by firearm. “In that dark moment you can feel so alone,” he said. “If we reduce the risk of any child or young adult who has been declared a danger to themselves or others from accessing a gun in that dark moment when it feels like the world is swallowing you alive, then we should take a measure to do so.”

Senate unanimously passes expungement reform

A bill that allows a person convicted of a single, low-level crime to clear their record passed the Senate by unanimous vote April 17. The Adult Expungement Reform Act is the first of 19 criminal justice bills unveiled in March to receive action.

Speaking before the vote, Attorney General Kathy Jennings said the bill is aimed at reducing recidivism and giving people more opportunities. Housing, employment and education can be limited for people who have criminal records, she said.

A $30 million fiscal note would pay for several state positions with the State Bureau of Identification that would process most minor misdemeanor expungements, easing the burden on courts and Delaware Board of Pardons, which previously handled expungements, the bill states.

Certain offenses such as a driving under the influence, a felony conviction for physical or sexual assault crimes and third-degree unlawful sexual contact would not qualify for an expungement without a pardon. People would only be eligible for one expungement every 10 years. And in most instances, the bill states, all fines, fees and restitution would need to be paid before someone could be eligible for an expungement.

The bill awaits final approval in the House.