GOVERNMENT

Bill to keep guns off college campuses clears Delaware House

By Joseph Edelen
Posted 6/18/24

DOVER — Legislation that would bar students from bringing a firearm onto a college campus passed in the Delaware House of Representatives Thursday after a back-and-forth debate on …

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GOVERNMENT

Bill to keep guns off college campuses clears Delaware House

Posted

DOVER — Legislation that would bar students from bringing a firearm onto a college campus passed in the Delaware House of Representatives Thursday after a back-and-forth debate on technicalities within the bill.

House Bill 311, which is sponsored by Rep. Cyndie Romer, D-Newark, would extend the state’s School Safe Zone Act to colleges. The law currently covers kindergarten, elementary, secondary and vocational-technical schools.

Debate on the bill largely regarded technicalities, as Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, and lead sponsor Rep. Romer, disagreed on the ultimate purview of the bill.

Specifically, Rep. Spiegelman took issue with unintended consequences that could arise given the boundaries of college campuses, as well as the definition of a firearm.

“This … is a significant change that allows universities and colleges to make exceptions on an individual basis as they see fit,” Rep. Romer said regarding one of the two amendments which passed. “We understand that colleges know their campuses and have extenuating circumstances at times based on their location; this is an amendment to really give them the latitude to make those changes.”

While Rep. Romer advocated for the bill — which would create a Class E felony for violators in its ability to eradicate gun violence, specifically on college campuses, where other factors are at play – Rep. Spiegelman took issue with its specific clauses.

“We are confident that this challenge will pass any court challenge. College students represent a high-risk group for suicidal thoughts and behaviors and introducing firearms in spaces where individuals may be experiencing mental health challenges, (which) raises questions about the potential for self-harm and suicide,” Rep. Romer said.

“The presence of guns combined with alcohol and drugs known to be on college campuses can create a highly volatile and dangerous environment, increasing the risk of accidental discharge, violent altercations and impaired judgment leading to tragic outcomes.”

In the debate Rep. Spiegelman took issue with the vagueness of Delaware’s definition of a firearm, which as written, can include a paintball or airsoft gun.

He is currently working on legislation to rectify this issue, and on the House floor, said the legislation extends too far, because it doesn’t specifically draw a line between campus property and buildings.

“You can literally be walking down … Governors Avenue or State Street, actually,” Rep. Spiegleman said while referencing Delaware State University.

“As a perfectly legal citizen … (then one step and you’re) a felon .... Ha ha ha; No, that’s the way this bill is written.”

After the back-and-forth debate, House Bill 311’s amended version passed by a 24-16 vote. It now heads to the Senate for consideratio

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