Carney wants lawmakers to ban assault-type rifles

John Carney

DOVER — In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida, Delaware’s governor on Friday called for state lawmakers to ban the sale of assault-style rifles.

Democratic Gov. John Carney said military-style weapons like the rifle used in the Parkland, Florida, shooting that left 17 people dead have no place in the hands of civilians.

“As we have seen in Las Vegas, Parkland, and in many other horrific incidents across our country, military-style weapons can be used to carry out catastrophic acts of violence. They have no place on the streets of our neighborhoods,” Carney said in a prepared statement.

Carney said his administration will work with lawmakers to craft legislation prohibiting the sale of such firearms. But while calling for state legislation to enact a ban, Carney also said a national approach is needed for he calls a “mortal threat” to public safety.

“President Trump and members of Congress have the authority to take responsible action nationally to reduce the toll of gun violence across our country,” Carney spokesman Jonathan Starkey explained. “Governor Carney believes they should act but won’t wait to do what is within our power here in Delaware to make our state safer.”

Seven states and the District of Columbia now have bans on assault-style weapons, including neighboring Maryland and New Jersey.

In Delaware, several other gun control measures are pending in the legislature, including a ban on bump stocks and legislation allowing authorities to seize firearms from anyone a mental health professional deems a potential threat to others.

Although consensus seems to be building on outlawing bump stocks, Carney’s proposed ban could face a tough fight in the General Assembly.

House Minority Leader Danny Short, a Republican from Seaford, called the proposal a “misguided effort” that will only further politically polarize Delawareans without doing anything to reduce isolated incidents of mass violence.

“Whenever there is a horrendous event involving firearms and a large loss of life, there is a knee-jerk reaction to do something, anything, to fight the horror and pain,” Short said in a prepared statement. “That is an understandable human response, but it is a poor way to make meaningful public policy.”

Short and Jeffrey Hague, a lobbyist for the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, noted that a federal ban on assault-type weapons was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and was deemed ineffective in curbing gun violence.

“Passing laws to restrict the basic firearms ownership rights, guaranteed by both our federal and state constitutions, is not the answer to reducing the anomalous incidents of mass violence perpetrated by a few deranged individuals,” Short said.

Hague said that although he could not comment specifically on Carney’s proposal because of the lack of detail, he could not recall any incident in which a person in Delaware was shot with an assault-type rifle.

Hague also said his group looks forward to working with the governor to ensure public safety and look for means to address individuals with mental health issues.

“But we also look forward to making sure the due process rights of all individuals in the state are protected,” Hague added, an apparent reference to competing bills regarding access to guns by individuals dealing with mental health issues.

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