Bill to Increase Minimum Age to Buy a Gun Passes Del. State Senate, House

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Legislation that would increase the age to legally purchase any firearm from 18 to 21 has passed the Delaware State Senate by a vote of 14-7. The measure (House Bill 451) also passed in the House.

Delaware’s current law mirrors federal requirements that a handgun buyer be at least 21 years old, while someone who is 18 was able to purchase a long gun.

“Six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 2018 have been perpetrated by people 21 or younger, including the recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde,” State Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark said. “While we have recognized that young people should not be allowed to purchase handguns since the 1960s, you somehow can still walk into a sporting goods store on your 18th birthday and purchase a far more powerful weapon that’s capable of far greater bloodshed? Even Donald Trump recognizes that makes zero sense. I want to thank my colleagues in the Delaware General Assembly for recognizing that it is time we raise the legal age for all firearm purchases to 21.” 

Sponsors said there would be limited exceptions for shotguns and muzzle-loading rifles and related ammunition. Active members of the military, National Guard members, law enforcement officers and those who have a concealed carry license who are 18 or older also would be exempted. Someone under the age of 21 would be able to possess or control a firearm for hunting as long as they are under the direct supervision of someone who is 21 or older.

The Senate added an amendment that would prevent people who are currently between 18 and 21 who already own legally purchased firearms from being subject to criminal charges. It also clarifies that Delawareans under age 21 are permitted to safely transport those weapons “for the purpose of participating in hunting, target shooting and other exempted activities.”

“We already prohibit people under 21 from buying a handgun, and there’s no reason we should treat long guns any differently. In Delaware, the most common age for shooters has been 18-21 the past few years,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach said. “Unfortunately, what we saw in Uvalde and Buffalo happened in Parkland four years ago – someone under 21 bought a gun that was designed for the military and used it to murder students. It’s long past time that Delaware lead on this issue and raise the age for buying a rifle to 21.” 

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