Delaware Senate votes to restrict gun access

DOVER — The Delaware Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would further restrict access to firearms for individuals under a restraining order.

By a 15-6 vote, senators sent the proposal on to the House. The bill draws all but one of its co-sponsors from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry

The bill would require an individual ordered by Family Court to turn over firearms within 24 hours. Currently, a Family Court commissioner can include in a protection from abuse order a provision forcing the recipient to surrender all of his or her guns, but there is no timetable.

Under the purview of the legislation, the definition of domestic violence would also be expanded to include violence against not just a family member, spouse, person the offender has a child with or partners who live together but also people who have dated or lived together within the past three years.

The substitute bill allows individuals to hand their guns not just to police but to firearms dealers. The change was made after long negotiations with gun-rights groups.

Despite the alterations, some lawmakers still strongly opposed the legislation Wednesday, and vigorous debate preceded the vote.

Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, a firearms dealer, said he is concerned the bill would violate federal lawsIt could also require a great deal of paperwork for gun owners to give their guns to dealers and then take them back when the protection from abuse order expires.

Sen David Lawson, R-Marydel, agreed.

“I just think that this was not considered and they didn’t talk to the right folks to get it done,” he said.

Several senators expressed concerns the language allows dealers the right to dispose of the guns.

Referring to the language as a violation of due process, Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, protested.

One witness testified that the dealer would have to notify the owner and wait six months before disposing of the firearms.

The bill simply clarifies and further enforces existing law, Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, insisted.

The main sponsor agreed as she shot down arguments from those opposed that the bill should be tabled to allow for further changes.

“The whole purpose is to prevent violence. We’ve gotten off on all kinds of things,” said Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington.

“They can turn it in to the police if they like, they can sell it if they like. What we’re trying to accomplish is protect people and I think all of us in here want to try to protect victims of domestic violence.”

After debate, legislators voted on the bill, passing it with mostly Democratic support.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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