Gun buyback bill fails in Senate


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At left, Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna, and Sen. Bruce Ennis, R-Smyrna, right, chat with Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, at center, before a meeting Tuesday of the Joint Finance Committee in Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — The Delaware Senate defeated legislation Tuesday that would have created a gun buyback program.

By a 15-6 vote, the senators voted down a bill that would have allowed police officers to purchase firearms and destroy them — in an effort they say would get guns off the streets.

Democrats were evenly split, while all Republicans voted against the measure.

Sponsor Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington, said a 2011 program resulted in about 2,300 guns being turned in to law enforcement. He believes another initiative could cut down on gun violence.

“If you don’t live in the ZIP code or the census district where the guns are located, the blood on the streets, the violence, I can understand the Second Amendment advocates that demagogue an issue like it based on an intrusion of people’s Second Amendment rights, but in reality it’s not, so I’ll go back to the drawing board, see if we can come up with some common ground,” he said.

Under the bill, police would have been able to buy back guns, potentially for about $100 or $200, at large-scale drop-off events. They would also have been authorized to buy guns when undercover.

All guns, except for antiques, would have been destroyed.

Firearms that been used in murders should be disposed of “even though it’s symbolical,” Sen. Marshall said on the floor.

Opponents raised questions about potentially destroying weapons that could be used as evidence. Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, referred to the practice as doing the “dirty work” for criminals.

Other senators also wondered about the effectiveness of buyback programs.

Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, expressed doubt why criminals would willingly surrender their guns. He called the program a “waste of state dollars” when Sen. Marshall admitted there is no statistical evidence showing the 2011 initiative was successful in reducing violence.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Richard Armitage said most of the people who turn in guns are law-abiding citizens. Many of the firearms bought back by such programs are low-caliber handguns owned legally, he said.

“Criminals often develop emotional attachment to their guns,” he said.

After a little more than 30 minutes of discussion Tuesday, senators voted not to send the bill to the House.

Sen. Marshall said afterward he thought the NRA lobbying might have convinced several lawmakers to vote against the measure.

He said he did not want to support an amendment that would have weakened the bill, but did plan to discuss the proposal further with opponents in an effort to find a version amenable to all parties.

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