Legislature passes gun control bills, but it’s not enough for some

DOVER — 2018 is shaping up to be remembered by Delaware lawmakers as the year of the gun.

Five years after passing several gun measures following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, legislators have introduced a handful of firearms related bills since the October massacre in Las Vegas and the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The House is set to vote on a bill raising the age to buy a long gun Tuesday. Also on the table are proposals dealing with keeping guns away from individuals who have mental illnesses and banning bump stocks.

The bump stock ban was passed by the Senate with just one vote against Thursday, but because senators attached two amendments, it has to be approved by the House again.

Thursday’s vote left the main sponsor fuming and touched off a mini war of words between the Senate and House Democrats.

After the bill passed with an amendment lowering the penalty for a first offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, issued a statement saying legislators failed the students around the state who rallied for more gun safety measures the day before.

“In every other state that has passed or is considering similar bills, possession of a bump stock is a felony. These are devices that make destructive weapons even deadlier. We need to listen to the students who visited Legislative Hall yesterday and spoke so passionately in favor of bills like this and the thousands of residents who demand we take action,” she said.

Legislators “need to do what’s best for public safety, not what is politically expedient,” she said.

In response, President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, in a statement praised the changes.

“Like the House’s amendments, we believe that these changes will make a good bill even better by enhancing fairness and effectiveness, while honoring and preserving the bill’s intent. The bill now goes back to the House for a second vote, but this minor delay is a small price to pay — particularly if gun control receives the sustained attention that the legislature owes it,” he said.

“It’s our job to do the right thing, to be thorough, and to be responsive to our constituents. Those objectives are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are complementary and necessary.”

The amendment lessening the penalty was sponsored by a Democrat — Sen. Bruce Ennis of Smyrna, hence the dueling statements. Sen. Ennis said after the vote the bill likely would have passed without the change, but he thinks the amendment makes it fairer.

There is a non-zero chance the House strips that amendment from the bill, meaning it would then go back to the Senate for an instance of legislative ping pong.

In other news, Senate Democrats recently got a new chief of staff when Valerie McCartan became policy director/senior adviser to the president pro tempore and former deputy chief of staff Debra Allen was promoted to chief of staff.

Sen. McBride declined to comment on the change when asked, saying he wouldn’t discuss personnel matters.


Facebook Comment