Commentary: Gun legislation is up to Delaware’s Democratic leaders

On May 8, 2019, Sens. David McBride and Nicole Poore blocked the release of two bills from committee — bills that would ban the sale of assault weapons (Senate Bill 68)and magazine clips of more than 15 rounds (Senate Bill 70).

A month earlier, Sen. McBride said the gun bills “are going through Executive Committee because I’m going to get them out. It’s important because I think that the Senate needs to stand up and tell Delaware where they are on all gun bills.”

Yet on May 13, Sen. McBride released a statement that reads like a talking point memo from the NRA: “The proponents must, in my view, effectively address at least three issues raised in committee: the effectiveness of this legislation in achieving its intended purpose; the constitutionality of these bills; and the criminalization of what are now legal activities.”

I can only shake my head at Sen. Poore’s questioning the results of professionally conducted polls that show a large majority of Americans, including Delawareans, want bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazine clips. “When a poll’s favorable, you run with it, right? You say this is what it is, but you don’t know how the questions are asked. You don’t know what they look like.”

For the record, Sens. Harris McDowell and Bryan Townsend, the other Democrats on the Executive Committee, were ready to release the bills for a vote on the Senate floor.

On Jan. 14, 2020 the General Assembly will re-convene. As chair of the Executive Committee, Sen. McBride can schedule a committee hearing for Jan. 15 and include SB 68 and SB 70 on the agenda.

He and Senate Majority Leader Poore can then fulfill their responsibility as leaders and release these bills for a full Senate vote. Delawareans deserve to know where their legislators stand on the issue of assault weapons in the hands of civilians.

While I agree with those who say, “It’s up to Washington to address gun violence,” federal laws are not going to change until we change lawmakers in Washington. Right now Delaware has a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in both chambers.

Delaware’s Democratic lawmakers have an opportunity to join a number of other states who have passed similar gun laws. The more states who pass meaningful gun legislation, the more pressure we place on Congress to act.

The passage of gun legislation is not enough to stop the mass murders in this country, especially those committed by white supremacists. It is going to take Republican governors, lawmakers and party leaders throughout this country to find the moral fortitude to speak out against those who spew hatred and encourage violence, including the president.

But that doesn’t let Delaware’s Democratic leaders off the hook. Sens. McBride and Poore need to find their backbones and work to secure the passage of the two bills that will make it illegal for anyone to own a firearm that can kill dozens of people in a minute. Why would any lawmaker oppose legislation that may stop a massacre in Delaware and help move us closer to federal legislation?

Joanne Cabry is chairwoman of the Progressive Democrats of Sussex County.

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