Delaware Democrats revive "permit to purchase" bill

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

Just a few weeks after North Carolina lawmakers repealed the state’s “permit to purchase” law that had been in place since the Jim Crow era, Delaware’s Democratic majority is poised to impose their own mandate requiring would-be handgun buyers to first undergo mandatory training and obtain a permission slip from the state before they can lawfully purchase a pistol for self-defense.


A similar bill introduced last year failed to win legislative approval, even as the Democratic majority at the statehouse enacted a half-dozen new restrictions on legal gun owners, including a ban on “large capacity” magazines that’s the subject of a federal lawsuit. Now the anti-gunners are pushing for the measure once again, but gun owners are pushing back as well.

Those with concealed carry permits would be exempt from the regulations. While partial exemptions are in place for former and current law enforcement.

However, Delaware Gun Rights President, Mitch Denham, doubts this bill will address the root causes of gun violence, citing a recent incident in Northern Delaware.

“The 17-year-old that was in the Christiana Mall shooting, he cannot get a gun legally. He just can’t. He’s 17. So where did that gun come from? Those are the questions that aren’t getting answered and aren’t going to be resolved by this,” said Denham.

Delaware’s Coalition Against Gun Violence believes the motives of Second Amendment activists and the General Assembly are vastly different.

“If our bills pass, we don’t make more money, but if our bills fail, the National Rifle Association (NRA) does,” said director Traci Murphy.

Murphy noted that opposition is inevitable.

“We hear all the time from the opposition that guns don’t fire themselves and ‘this is not a gun problem, it’s a people problem.’ Well, this legislation doesn’t approach anything involving guns, but they are still going to oppose it,” she said.


A bill requiring a state-issued permit to purchase a firearm doesn’t involve guns? I’m used to dumb arguments from the anti-gun crowd, but this is truly special.

The training mandates for would-be gun owners is bad enough, but the permit-to-purchase would also subject law-abiding residents to a potential 30-day waiting period on all handgun sales.

This bill would require Delawareans to complete a firearm training course in the last five years in order to purchase a handgun. Certain Delawareans would be exempt: Law enforcement officers (including those who are retired) and those allowed to carry a concealed deadly weapon – since they have already been required to take a firearm course.

Once a course is completed, residents would submit an application to the state. The State Bureau of Identification then has a month to fingerprint the applicant and confirm they are allowed to buy a gun. A permit will be issued and required when the person purchases a handgun.

This version of the bill requires the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security to provide vouchers to cover the entire cost of required training for anyone whose household earns less than 200% of the federal poverty guideline.

Gun advocate groups are adamantly against this bill, as they have been with most of the legislation passed by Democrats.

Delaware lawmakers say more than a dozen states have adopted similar legislation, including neighbors Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 26.


In actuality the wait will be far longer than 30 days for would-be gun buyers. First they’ll have to find an open slot for them to take the mandated training course, which may not be easy in a state the size of Delaware that has limited training options to begin with. Only after they’ve completed the required course of training can they even fill out their application, which starts the 30-day clock for the state to respond. Practically speaking, it could be several months before someone who decides they want to buy a pistol for personal protection can actually go to store and buy one.

Yes, obtaining a concealed carry license would exempt gun buyers from the permit-to-purchase requirement, but not every gun owner wants a carry license. And as Mitch Denham succinctly pointed out, violent criminals aren’t going to jump through all of the hoops the state is putting in place for legal gun owners. They’re going to get their guns on the black market; through theft, straw buys, and illicit sales.

No, this isn’t about stopping criminals from getting their hands on guns. It’s about inhibiting law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to armed self-defense. Hopefully this year’s legislation will be just as unsuccessful as last year’s attempt. I know that gun owners will be out in force on Wednesday when SB 2 gets its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but I’m not optimistic that the Democratic majority will listen to their concerns.


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