Bump stock ban becomes law — finally

DOVER — Gov. John Carney on Thursday signed legislation banning bump stocks and related devices that allow guns to fire faster, putting an end to the monthslong saga that saw the bill passed thrice by the House and twice by the Senate.

The House approved it Thursday by a 36-2 vote, with one member abstaining and two absent. Less than two hours later, the governor put pen to paper to make it law.

House Bill 300 criminalizes possession, sale, purchase or transfer of bump stocks and trigger cranks. A first offense of simply having a bump stock is a Class B misdemeanor, while any subsequent violation or attempt to transfer or receive such devices is a Class E felony.

The bill creates a buyback program, compensating Delawareans who turn in the devices $100 per bump stock and $15 per trigger crank. A total of $15,000 will be allocated, with the program ending once that funding expires or one year passes.

The measure stems from an Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas, which saw a gunman reportedly use several bump stock-enabled firearms to kill 58 people attending a country music concert. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

The First State is one of several jurisdictions to ban bump stocks since the incident.

“Delaware has made progress in strengthening our gun safety laws this legislative session with the support of students and advocates across the state, and today is no exception,” Gov. Carney, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“By signing this bill into law, we are saying that there is no place in Delaware for bump stocks and other devices that are used to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons, making these weapons even more potentially deadly. This ban is one piece in a package of comprehensive gun safety legislation that will help us protect Delawareans.”

While the final version of the bill is relatively straightforward, the process was anything but.

The House passed it 25-3, with 11 not voting and two absent, in March. At the time, having a bump stock would have been a Class E felony. One week later, the Senate approved the measure overwhelmingly, but in a changed form, making a first instance of having, transferring or receiving a Class B misdemeanor and any other instance a Class G felony. It also upped penalties for use during a crime.

That change, however, was not welcome news for the main sponsor, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst. In a statement at the time, the Bear Democrat said legislators failed students who walked out of class to call for additional gun control measures the day before and later said she was considering amending out the Senate change.

On May 1, the House voted by a large margin to make possession a Class A misdemeanor and sale, purchase or transfer a Class E felony. But once again, the Senate sent the bill back with a change, attaching an amendment last week that reduces the penalty for possession to its current form. A Class A misdemeanor has a maximum sentence of one year in jail, while the penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is up to six months.

Following the most recent Senate vote, Rep. Longhurst said she had not expected the alteration and needed time to consider it.

Thursday, she presented the bill to the House in the form passed by the Senate. There was no debate, and the chamber quickly sent the proposal on to the governor.

Just two people spoke prior to the vote: Rep. Longhurst and Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, a Clayton Republican, who jokingly noted he had no amendments, unlike the last time the bill passed the House.

It is the third gun bill to become law this year, after one upping the penalty for straw purchases and another creating procedures to take firearms from individuals with mental illnesses.

Reps. Rich Collins, a Millsboro Republican, and Mike Mulrooney, a Wilmington Manor Democrat, voted against the bill Thursday, while Rep. Charles Postles, a Milford Republican, abstained. Reps. Dave Bentz, a Christiana Democrat, and Debra Heffernan, a Bellefonte Democrat, were absent.

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