Delaware bill limiting gun magazines goes to governor

By Joseph Edelen and Matt McDonald
Posted 6/16/22

DOVER — Lawmakers in the Delaware General Assembly debated a series of bills relating to guns in the First State on Thursday.

In the House of Representatives, leaders voted to limit …

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Delaware bill limiting gun magazines goes to governor

Posted

DOVER — Lawmakers in the Delaware General Assembly debated a series of bills relating to guns in the First State on Thursday.

In the House of Representatives, leaders voted to limit high-capacity magazines, implement funding for “school hardening,” and establish mental health services in Delaware schools on Thursday at Legislative Hall in Dover.

After more than two hours of party caucus, Senate Substitution 1 for Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, and House Minority Whip Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, was introduced. Also known as the Delaware Large-Capacity Magazine Prohibition Act of 2022, the legislation would prohibit the use or sale of large-capacity magazines.

Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, had proposed an amendment that would remove the penalty of a class E felony for possession of these magazines, but requested it be struck, as he felt that it was wrong to penalize people for something they may already own. He said the legislation could result in “unconstitutional taking,” and could constitute a fourth amendment violation.

Afterward, Rep. Mitchell introduced an amendment that clarified the penalties for possession, such as a $100 civil penalty for first time offenders, a class B felony for second-time offenders, and a class E felony for subsequent offenders. The amendment passed successfully and was placed with the bill.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, then said she was going to introduce an amendment, but decided otherwise after conversing with Rep. Mitchell, who said it would be considered as a separate bill. She said the reason for this was to protect a business in her district that manufactures high-capacity magazines that is continuously growing and was vital to many areas of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. She applauded the House sponsor for his commitment to new legislation, though she did not support the current bill.

Rep. Mitchell thanked lawmakers on both sides of the isle for their input on the legislation, especially thanking Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, for his help in getting SS 1 for SB 6 to the finish line. The legislation passed by a vote of 23 for, and 18 against.

The bill was returned to the state Senate chamber after 9 p.m. on Thursday evening where lawmakers there voted 13-8 to approve the legislation. Now SS1 for SB6 will move to Gov. John Carney’s desk.

Later in the House session, HB 388, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Hensley, R-Townsend, passed by a vote of 40 yes, and one absent. The legislation invests in the Delaware School Safety and Security Fund for the hiring of constables, adding to the list of investments provided by the fund. Currently, funds can be applied to monitoring equipment, vestibule improvements, door and window locks, and more.

Rep. Hensley said it was unfortunate that the legislature continuously has to bring up legislation to protect schools, but they had to revisit the issue as a result of the increased violence in schools across the country.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford, would have appropriated $10 million to the Delaware School Safety and Security Fund, but was defeated. The legislation will now be assigned to committee in the Senate for consideration.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, who has long been an advocate for mental health awareness, celebrated the passage of legislation to address the mental health crisis in the state. HB 300, which she was prime sponsor of, establishes a mental health services unit for Delaware middle schools, and received overwhelming support from the House chamber.

The bill would create new jobs for school psychologists, school counselors, and social workers in middle schools statewide. Similar legislation, HB 100, passed last August and provides the implementation of a mental health services unit for elementary schools.

“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis in Delaware that began well before the pandemic and has only accelerated in the last two years. Anyone who has paid attention to this issue should be alarmed at the especially brutal toll this crisis has taken on our children,” Rep. Longhurst said in a House press release.

“Teachers across the state are seeing it every day in their classrooms. So many of their students come to school with significant unmet needs that impact their ability to learn, such as hunger, homelessness, trauma, and other untreated mental health issues. Without adequate resources to support our students, these challenges create the kind of disruptions in school that impact learning and affect all students.”

In the Senate on Thursday, Senators passed two pieces of gun legislation Thursday after hours of deliberation, each by a margin of 13 to 8.

House Bill 450, which would ban the purchase, sale and possession of “assault weapons,” will head to the governor for a signature.

Senate Bill 8, which would ban the use of devices that convert handguns into fully automatic weapons, will head to the House for consideration in committee.

House Bill 451, which would raise the legal age to own a firearm to 21 from 18, with some exceptions, was tabled. It was not immediately clear why this had been done. It can be brought up for a vote during a future session.

“The bills we pass today will not stop these shootings. There are several other things we can do to stop the shootings,” said Sen. Gerald Hocker. R-Ocean View.

Sen. Hocker said his concerns about the gun bills debated on Thursday would cause hardships to gun-focused businesses.

More pieces of legislation were on the Senate docket for Thursday but did not receive a vote before a publication deadline.