Becker: Ethical issues surround permit-to-purchase legislation


This is in response to Mr. Peter Graffagnino and his opinions, “Where is our outrage about school shootings?” and “Permit-to-purchase topic has become political football." Mr. Graffagnino made comments about the ethics issues of our elected officials in Washington, D.C., along with Supreme Court justices. There is an example of questionable ethics closer to home that Mr. Graffagnino should consider first.

The Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence is an organization that “works on enacting, protecting, and implementing gun safety laws in Delaware and nationwide,” according to its website.

Beginning in December 2020, the coalition applied for grant-in-aid and subsequently received $6,000 when House Bill 265 was signed into law June 30, 2021. In 2022, DECAGV received $7,180; in 2023, it received $10,000.

Grant-in-aid applications are public records subject to review under the Freedom of Information Act.

DECAGV’s 2021 and 2022 applications describe its mission statement: “Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence’s Education Fund’s mission is to address the root causes of gun violence by informing the public about gun violence prevention (GVP) news and building the capacity of the Gun Violence Prevention Coalition in Delaware,” which is different than what its website states.

The grant-in-aid application guide specifically states that organizations requesting funds must submit an audit prepared by a certified public accountant or a public accountant in the past three years or submit a detailed statement why it was not done. Organizations with less than $50,000 in revenue can submit other forms of financial information, such as a letter from a third-party accountant verifying that the information has been reviewed. For the 2021 application, DECAGV submitted detailed financial statements but did not provide the required audit. Its reasoning for not providing the audit was, “Prior to 2020, DECAGV has operated with very thin margins and we felt that an audit was unnecessary. We plan to incorporate audits into future years.” For the 2022 application, the group did not provide detailed financial statements and provided a statement why an audit was not submitted. An excerpt from that statement: “Until 2021, the Delaware Coalition was operating on an even thinner shoestring than we are currently, and so we have not prioritized nor seen the need for a professional auditor.”

The coalition’s applications also list Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, as a director, along with his contact information, including his government email address. Rep. Baumbach has voted on grant-in-aid bills HB 265 (2021), Senate Bill 252 (2022) and House Bill 197 (2023). It is also interesting to note that Rep. Baumbach is a sponsor of the permit-to-purchase bill (Senate Bill 2).

DECAGV’s executive director is Traci Murphy, and she is listed as the individual submitting the grant-in-aid applications for 2021 and 2022. She also has publicly supported the permit-to-purchase bill. In an April 2023 article, Ms. Murphy stated, “Requiring a permit to purchase is the single most important piece of legislation we can move to limit gun trafficking.”

An elected official is voting to give taxpayer funds to an organization he belongs to, along with sponsoring legislation that the same organization’s executive director is publicly advocating for. There is no verified information that these taxpayer funds are being used for the stated purpose. Would Mr. Graffagnino agree that these are the same types of ethical issues he has described?

Scott Becker

New Castle

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