Bill would extend gun background check waiting period in Delaware


DOVER — A bill that extends the amount of time for federal officials to conduct background checks on potential gun buyers in Delaware is headed to the state House for a vote.

The House Administration Committee, consisting of the Democratic majority and Republican minority leadership, voted to release the bill after a hearing Wednesday.

Under federal law, a dealer cannot sell or transfer a firearm to a potential buyer until a federal background check has been done, or until three days have elapsed since the background check was requested.

Rep. Valerie Longhurst

Rep. Valerie Longhurst

Supporters of the legislation say the current federal law is inadequate and sometimes results in guns being sold to people who should not possess them.

While roughly 92 percent of background checks are completed within minutes, some are delayed because of red flags or questions about the buyer’s eligibility to own a firearm. While the three-day period allows officials more time to conduct the check, not all are completed within that time frame. As a result, there have been some instances in which a person who has waited three days is able to obtain a gun before a background checks reveals that he or she is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

The bill extends the amount of time that a Delaware gun buyer might have to wait for a background check to be done from three days to 30 days.

“To me, this is a no-brainer bill,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst. She added that lawmakers have an obligation to protect public safety, and that only one gun in the wrong hands can have drastic consequences.

“It’s a public safety issue,” said Longhurst.

Representatives of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence also spoke in favor the measure, arguing that it is not unreasonable to make gun buyers wait for a background check to be completed.

But Shannon Alford, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, disputed the notion that the bill was needed to close a “loophole.”

Alford said the three-day waiting period was specifically incorporated into the system that created the national background check program to address concerns that a federal agency or administration could indefinitely deny any or all gun purchases, depriving people of their Second Amendment rights.

“This is a solution in search of a problem … Let’s leave it the way it is,” she said.

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