A pair of anti-gun bills introduced in the Delaware legislature this week are being rushed through committees and are set for a vote in the state Senate as early as today, as the Democrats in control of the statehouse seek to impose sweeping new restrictions on legal gun owners.
Senate Bill 3 would impose a “permit to purchase” requirement mandating that all would-be gun owners take a training course and apply for permission to own a handgun before they can legally buy one, while Senate Bill 6 would ban ammunition magazines that can hold more than 17 rounds.
The permit-to-purchase requirement would allow the state to impose a 30-day waiting period on the purchase of the handgun while it considers the application, as well as empowering the state to deny the application if local law enforcement offers any objections. This type of discretionary-issue policy has historically been used to deny the right to own a handgun for racial minorities, and is a relic of the Jim Crow era, but Delaware Democrats are billing the idea as a “common sense gun safety” measure.
As for the magazine ban, it sets an arbitrary limit on the size of magazines that Delaware gun owners can possess. According to a summary of the legislation:
After enactment, possession of large-capacity magazine will be a class B misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for any subsequent offense. Those who possess a prohibited large-capacity magazine when this Act takes effect must, by June 30, 2022, relinquish the large-capacity magazine to a law-enforcement agency in this State. This Act establishes a buyback program for large-capacity magazines, to be overseen by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
In other words, if you legally own 20-round magazines, you would be required under the bill to turn them over to the state or else risk a misdemeanor (and potentially a felony) charge. The language of SB 6 is similar to California’s revised magazine ban, which was struck down by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020 (the Ninth Circuit is currently reconsidering that decision with an en banc panel) as a violation of the rights of gun owners.
If the Delaware bill were to become law, it would certainly face a similar court challenge. This bill would ban some of the most commonly owned ammunition magazines in existence. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says that there are more than 80-million magazines that can hold at least 30-rounds that are already in the hands of legal gun owners throughout the country, so a 20-round magazine is clearly in common use by legal gun owners.
Of course, none of that matters to the Democrats ramming through the anti-gun bills.
“Delaware is facing an epidemic of gun violence,” said Wilmington state Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, SB3’s primary sponsor. “As the senator for Delaware’s 3rd District, I’m very aware that children are more likely to be shot in my hometown of Wilmington than almost any other city in the country. Dover set a new record for shootings in 2020. Meanwhile, statewide, Delaware has recorded its highest number of shooting homicides in three years during a pandemic. Most of these deaths, mostly among young people with far too easy access to handguns specifically.”
Lockman pointed to a Christiana High School student arrested for bringing a loaded, stolen handgun to school the very week this bill made its debut in the committee and said the pattern could no longer be ignored. The bill, which would also require gun safety training by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security prior to issuance of a permit, is supported by 74% of the state, according to recent polling, Lockman said. The bill also exclusively focuses on handguns, and makes no requirements for long gun purchases.
Pointing to a teenager who possessed stolen handgun is a weird way to call for new restrictions on legal gun owners, given the fact that, you know, it was a stolen gun that didn’t go through a background check and the teen wouldn’t have applied for a permit-to-purchase before he illegally acquired it. Rather than focusing on increased penalties for possession of a stolen firearm, however, Democrats are making it clear that they’re aiming at legal gun ownership.
The idea that no one gun law could fix everything, and so therefore no movement should be made on the issue at all unless it was an all-encompassing solution, was countered by Attorney General Kathy Jennings, who said the proposed legislation is embraced across the red-blue color barrier.
“Permit-to-purchase laws are one of several basic gun safety policies supported by a significant majority of Delawareans, including many gun owners who recognize that the status quo–a gun violence epidemic without parallel in the developed world–is simply unacceptable. In spite of that clear majority, it is no secret to me or any of you that a passionate minority of the public opposes this bill and, for some, oppose any gun safety laws.”
She said the argument that criminals don’t obey the law are irrelevant when their goals become that much more difficult to accomplish with everyone else abiding by the law.
That’s not how criminals operate. It’s illegal for everyone to possess meth, heroin, or fentanyl, for example, yet criminals and users of those drugs have little trouble getting ahold of those illicit items. In fact, there were more than 400 drug overdose deaths in Delaware in 2020, far outpacing the number of homicides in the state.
The truly common sense approach to tackling violet crime involves focusing like a laser on violent offenders. Instead, Delaware’s Democrats are trying to create new, non-violent criminals out of legal gun owners. These bills would do nothing to make the state safer, but they would make residents less free.