Del. officials react to Obama gun proposals

DOVER — As reaction to President Obama’s proposed executive actions to tighten gun control in the United States spread Tuesday, the Delaware Department of Justice didn’t have immediate access to specific points.

However, anything that brings high scrutiny of gun purchases through background checks has the support of Attorney General Matt Denn.

“I have not seen the details of the president’s proposal, but I am generally very supportive of thorough and efficient background checks for gun purchases,” the Democrat said in a statement issued through his office.

“There are still far too many guns in the hands of people who should not have them in our state, and although thorough background checks are not a total solution to that problem, they are an important part of the solution.”

On Tuesday a spokesman for Gov. Jack Markell said: “Since Delaware’s laws regarding who is prohibited from owning a firearm often track language in the federal statute, we welcome any federal clarification that may facilitate enforcement at the state level.

“Closing loopholes and clarifying outdated or unclear language in existing statutes has been a high priority of this Administration, which is why the Governor signed legislation in 2013 that closed the ‘private sale’ loophole in state law by requiring background checks for sales and transfers of firearms between private parties, including internet sales.

According to spokesman Jonathan Dworkin, “the Governor has also prioritized implementing the FBI’s suggestions to improve State reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database. Delaware is now one of the states with the best records for reporting required involuntary mental health commitment information into NICS.

“We are in receipt of the letter from (U.S.) Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting State support of initiatives to improve the quality and quantity of information that states report into NICS and look forward to further dialogue with the FBI and the Obama Administration on those issues.”

Mr. Dworkin said the governor’s office believes in adding to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives agency’s resources, which will benefit Delaware.

“Moreover, as one of the ‘iron pipeline’ states identified by ATF as having a very high volume of illegally trafficked firearms, we strongly support the strengthening of ATF’s budget and personnel,” he said.

“Our work with ATF in the Violence Reduction Network has been helpful, and we welcome additional ATF resources.”

In May 2013, Gov. Markell signed House Bill 35, which mandated background checks for most gun sales in Delaware. According to the governor’s office at the time, the bill closed “a loophole in state law by requiring background checks in connection with the sale or transfer of firearms between private parties.

“The bill includes several exceptions, such as transfers to immediate family members, qualified law-enforcement officers and certain short-term transfers to persons personally known to the owner.”

According to the governor’s office, HB 35 required a background check for gun transfers even if licensed dealers were not involved. The background checks must be documented and kept on file.

“This was an enormous loophole — one in which convicted felons, persons who committed to mental institutions and other “prohibited persons” could readily avoid background checks and more easily acquire guns,” according to a news release at the time.

A first offense violation of HB 35 is considered a class A misdemeanor for a first offense, with any following offenses categorized as a class G felony.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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