Lawmakers seek to raise age to buy guns


DOVER — Legislation filed Thursday by Democrats would raise the age to purchase a gun to 21. While current state law requires individuals to be 21 or older to buy a handgun, it allows purchase of a long gun like a rifle by people at least 18 years of age.

The measure, House Bill 330, comes in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooting killed 17 people and intensified calls for gun control from many around the country.

“We already prohibit people under 21 from buying a handgun, and there’s no reason we should treat rifles or shotguns any differently,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said in a statement. “We need to learn from every mass shooting.

“We learned from the tragedy in Parkland that someone under 21 bought a gun that was designed for the military and committed horrific acts. Delaware needs to lead on this issue. We may not be able to stop every mass shooting, but we can try to help minimize the impacts.”

The bill prohibits the transfer or purchase of a gun or ammunition by those under 21. According to the Giffords Law Center, Hawaii and Illinois are the only states that require a person to be 21 to purchase a long gun.

Under federal law, gun dealers cannot sell handguns to anyone younger than 21 and long guns to anyone under 18. From someone buying from an unlicensed individual, such as an online seller, friend or gun-show attendee, the minimum age for a handgun purchase is 18, with exceptions for hunting. There is no age restriction for unlicensed sellers of long guns.

President Donald Trump recently said the minimum age to buy any gun should be 21. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced Wednesday they are increasing the minimum age to purchase a firearm in their stores to 21.

House Bill 330 is backed by 24 lawmakers, all Democrats.

“One thing is clear: the status quo on gun safety isn’t working,” Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, said in a statement. “As far as I’m concerned, nothing should be off the table when it comes to the safety of our schools, our workplaces, and our places of worship.

“Owning a firearm is a huge responsibility, and it seems backwards to me that we would allow anyone to buy a gun before we even trusted them with alcohol. We have to do more on gun safety — but this is a good start.”

It’s not the only gun control measure lawmakers will tackle over the next four months: Gov. John Carney last week said he is seeking to ban the sale of “assault-style” weapons in Delaware, and measures banning bump stocks and keeping guns away from individuals with mental illnesses are awaiting votes.

Also filed Thursday were measures lowering the blood alcohol level limit for driving under the influence from .08 to .05, creating a scholarship for students with intellectual disabilities and mandating all money awarded to the state through settlements is under the sole control of the General Assembly.

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