More gun restrictions demanded: Dover marchers echo national call

Protesters stand on Legislative Mall during a march against gun violence on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Undeterred by the wind a group of 40 Delawareans made its way around the perimeter of Legislative Mall again and again.

Seventeen times they walked around the mall, one for each victim of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Many participants carried signs: “Books, not bullets” “I shouldn’t have to hide in school,” “It should be harder to buy a gun than to pass a driving test.”

All around the nation similar demonstrations occurred as thousands gathered to call for more gun control and end what one marcher in Dover called a situation that has gotten “out of control.”

Organized by Delaware State University student Reginald Daniel the Dover rally was designed to call for expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a prohibition on bump stocks.

Many believe the gun debate in the United States has reached a tipping point in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, with advocates of expanded gun control seizing momentum and making strong pushes for new restrictions, despite the Second Amendment.

A march against gun violence on Legislative Mall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We know we live in a persistent problem of gun-based violence, and in spite of the technological power of this country, of our military might and our artistic genius, our people, our children, are dying from gunshots,” Kevin Brown, bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Delaware, told attendees.

“We cry out in anguish when students are slain in their classrooms, we cry out in pain when boys and girls are shot down in our neighborhoods and on city streets. This loss of life and liberty is unconscionable, and it’s unacceptable.”

That desire to see change is what drove those who showed up Saturday.

“To see people going into these schools and shooting up people is just sad, man. … I don’t even know these people, but your heart goes out every time you see that,” Ricky Hardy said as he made a lap around Legislative Mall.

Protesters stand on Legislative Mall during a march against gun violence on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The Parkland shooting and an October mass shooting in Las Vegas have spurred some lawmakers to push several gun control measures. It looks as if the second leg of the 149th General Assembly will be remembered for the many firearms bills that have been filed. Awaiting votes in at least one chamber are bills to prohibit the sale of “assault-style” weapons, ban bump stocks, provide a clearer pathway for removing firearms from individuals with mental illness and raise the age to buy rifles.

The mental illness bill is set to be voted on by the House Tuesday. It has bipartisan support.

The bump stock measure passed both chambers, but because the Senate attached an amendment, it has to be approved by the House again. Representatives may try to strip the amendment, which weakens the bill, and send the proposal back to the Senate.

The age bill passed the House mostly on party lines, while the assault ban was just introduced Thursday.

While supportive of what lawmakers have done so far, Mr. Daniel wants members of the General Assembly to remove a provision that exempts someone receiving a gun from a family member from needing a background check.

“I feel that’s irresponsible because it assumes that the recipient is going to have the same moral and mental capacity, as well as the professionalism, of the original owner,” he said.

Other states have passed additional gun control bills in the past month, and while a Republican-controlled Congress appears unlikely to enact serious reforms, supporters believe this movement has sticking power in a way that past ones did not.

“The young people themselves have rallied and stepped forward. My job as a parent, having a daughter who’s a college student, is supporting them,” Mr. Hardy’s wife, Denise, said.

“Because this is something that is important. It’s about safety for all. Safety for all. And getting our legislators behind. So, that’s the thing for me. The young people have stepped up front and center, and I’m supporting them.”

“I believe there just comes a point where you just say enough is enough, man,” Mr. Hardy added. “How much killing is it going to take before you say enough is enough?”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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