DOVER, Del. — Support for strict gun control measures proposed by fellow Democrats is “almost non-existent,” the leader of Delaware’s Senate said Monday in declaring that the measures will not be coming out of a committee he leads.
The statement by Senate President Pro Tem David McBride comes after a committee hearing last week in which critics blasted the proposals as unconstitutional restrictions on gun ownership that would do nothing to address gun crime in Delaware.
“I believe they made the correct decision,” said Jeff Hague, president of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association. “The bills are not constitutional as written.”
Under one bill, any Delawarean wanting to buy a firearm would first have to obtain permission from the government in the form of a state-issued “purchaser card,” which would require being fingerprinted and taking an approved firearms training course. Gun dealers, meanwhile, would be required to submit information on every gun sold and every gun purchaser for entry into a new state database.
Democrats also resurrected proposals introduced last year to ban certain semiautomatic weapons that gun-control advocates describe as “assault weapons,” as well as “large capacity” magazines.
“After several hours of public debate, these measures simply lack the support they need to pass on the Senate floor,” McBride said, adding that holding the bills in committee would allow sponsors to build “a consensus that does not currently exist.”
McBride said proponents of the measures must address concerns about their constitutionality, their effectiveness in promoting public safety, and the criminalization of activities that currently are legal.
The decision to forego further action on the bills was first reported Friday by the Delaware State News.
With some gun control measures failing to progress to floor votes last year, including the proposed weapon and magazine bans, McBride vowed in January, when lawmakers convened this year’s legislative session, that any gun bill introduced this year would go to the Executive Committee, which he chairs.
“I believe the gun bills, the importance of them is such that it should be voted on by the Senate,” he said at the time. “I will have a hearing on each one of them, and I will be voting to let them out.”
“The gun issue permeates so many different parts of our society, we need as a policymaking body to at least have a discussion on it,” McBride added.
McBride suggested Monday that disputes over gun-control legislation should be resolved through negotiation, if possible.
“They will not be resolved by protracted debate on the floor of the Delaware Senate,” he explained.
Sen. Bryan Townsend is chief sponsor of the proposed ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles, also known as modern sporting rifles, and a co-sponsor of the other two bills. He did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday. An email message to the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence also went unanswered.
Townsend, a Newark Democrat, proposed a similar firearms ban last year, but the measure failed to get out of committee. Despite its failure in committee, McBride put it on the Senate agenda in a failed effort to suspend Senate rules and bring it up for a floor vote.
As with last year’s bill, Townsend’s latest proposal identifies dozens of “assault long guns” and “assault pistols” that would be banned, with violators subject to felony charges. The ban also would extend to “copycat” weapons, including any centerfire rifle that has a detachable magazine coupled with a folding stock and a pistol grip that “protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon,” and any pistol or centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
The legislation, with certain exceptions, would prohibit the sale and transfer of such firearms, as well as transportation across state lines into Delaware. It would not ban possession of weapons purchased legally before the legislation’s effective date, but it would impose restrictions on where they could be possessed and transported.
Democratic lawmakers also proposed banning ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds. Anyone who currently legally owns a magazine holding more than 15 rounds would be required to surrender it to the government.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.