SDARJ strongly supports gun legislation
The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice strongly supports SB 3, which will create a permit system to govern the sale and other transfers of handguns in the state of Delaware; HB 125, which will ban the possession, manufacturing and distribution of “ghost guns” and SB 6, which will ban the possession of “large-capacity magazines,” which are defined as “ammunition-feeding devices with a capacity to accept more than 17 rounds of ammunition.” On Feb. 16, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings distributed a list of her 10 top legislative priorities for 2021.
The first three priorities she listed were in essence the three bills that we have supported above. These bills have also already received significant support in the General Assembly. The Senate passed SB 3 April 1, by a vote of 13 to 8. The House passed HB 125 May 20 by a vote of 23 to 18. And the Senate passed SB 6 April 1 by a vote of 13 to 8. All three of these bills, if enacted, would reduce gun violence and save lives. Like all other states, Delaware requires licenses for people who drive cars. Handguns in the hands of the wrong people are even more dangerous than cars in the hands of the wrong people, so permits should also be required for the owners of handguns. In addition, gun owners should not be allowed to evade background checks and escape detection by law enforcement by assembling their own guns without serial numbers. As for high-capacity ammunition magazines, we agree with Attorney General Jennings that “[t]hese are killing machines that have no place in our communities. Period.” (Feb. 16 memorandum).
The Senate recently adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 8, which declared that gun violence is “a public health crisis” in this state and that ending the gun violence that is “devastating Delaware” is a “policy priority.” This resolution pointed out that “every day, more than 100 Americans are shot and killed in the United States and more than 230 people are shot and wounded,” that “Delaware has the 13th highest rate of gun homicides in the country,” and that “Black people are 13 times more likely than white people to die by gun homicide in Delaware….” This last statistic makes gun safety legislation an issue of particular concern to the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice.
Studies show that licensing laws can lead to significant reductions in both gun homicides and gun suicides. For example, when Connecticut passed a licensing law, its firearm homicide rate decreased by 40 percent and its firearm suicide rate decreased by 15 percent. [Source: Gifford Law Center].
Licensing laws also ensure that gun owners pass a meaningful background check before they purchase a gun. In contrast to states that require a background check at the point of sale of a firearm, licensing laws typically require an in-person application at law enforcement agencies, which provides an additional safeguard against fraud or inaccuracies that could allow dangerous individuals to obtain guns. Under SB 3, permits must be obtained from Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia already have licensing laws governing the sale and possession of firearms. The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice urges the General Assembly to add Delaware to this list.
On April 7, in the context of remarks in the White House briefing room about the American Jobs plan, President Biden addressed the problem of “ghost guns,” or “homemade gun kits”: “We are experiencing a growing problem: criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes, and using these firearms to commit crimes. When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number. The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these firearms.” A month later, on May 7, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland unveiled this proposed rule and made the following comments about it: “We are committed to taking commonsense steps to address the epidemic of gun violence that takes the lives of too many people in our communities. Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement.” As these comments suggest, ghost guns are unregulated firearms that anyone, including minors and prohibited purchasers, can buy and build without a background check. They are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online. In the proposed rule, the Justice Department stated that, “from January 2016 through December 2020, more than 23,900 suspected privately made firearms were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, including in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides.” The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice urges the General Assembly to close this major loophole to effective regulation of gun ownership and possession by enacting HB 125. While the proposed federal regulation and HB 125 deal with the same problem, they take very different approaches to it and they are not redundant or overlapping.
The third bill that we are supporting, SB 6, deals with the recurring problem of mass shootings. As a result of the recent deadly mass shooting in San Jose, California, this issue is once again at the forefront of the debate over gun safety legislation. The Brady organization’s Gun Violence Archive reported that, at the end of the fifth month (May) of 2021, there had already been 231 mass shootings in the United States this year alone. (GVA defines mass shootings as those in which there are four or more victims, not including the shooter).
What many of these incidents have in common is the shooters’ use of large-capacity ammunition magazines. The two largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history are two examples. On June 12, 2016, a shooter killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Over 90 percent of the victims were Hispanic. The shooter used two weapons, a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol. In less than 5 minutes, the shooter fired approximately 200 rounds, pausing only to reload. A little over a year later, another shooter broke the Pulse nightclub shooter’s record for the most deaths and injuries in a single shooting incident. On October 1, 2017, a shooter on the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas opened fire on the crowd in the street below, which was attending a country music festival. Within a 10-minute period, the shooter fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, killing 60 people and wounding 411. As a result of the ensuing panic, the number of injured was increased to 867. Following these shootings, law enforcement discovered 24 firearms, a large quantity of ammunition and numerous high-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds apiece in the suite.
Large-capacity magazines were designed and intended for use by the military. They serve no positive purpose in the civilian context. Banning them would save lives and prevent injuries. Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice therefore urges the General Assembly to enact SB 6.