Governor Carney & Rep. Short on Gun Safety Laws in Delaware

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In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida which left 17 dead, Governor John Carney has issued the following statement on Gun Safety Laws:

“Over the past several years, Delaware has made progress in strengthening our gun safety laws, to help give law enforcement the tools they need to more effectively confront gun violence. We’re also continuing to work with school districts to ensure that Delaware schools have up-to-date safety plans, and to provide training so students and educators know how to respond in the face of violence. But more needs to be done.

We are already working with Representative David Bentz to pass the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, which will keep weapons out of the hands of those who mental health professionals and judges believe present a danger to themselves or others. I have also urged the General Assembly to pass a bill, introduced by Representative Valerie Longhurst, that would ban bump stock devices.

In the coming weeks, my team will work closely with lawmakers to craft legislation that would prohibit the sale of assault-style rifles in Delaware. As we have seen in Las Vegas, Parkland, and in many other horrific incidents across our country, military-style weapons can be used to carry out catastrophic acts of violence. They have no place on the streets of our neighborhoods.

We need a national approach to this mortal threat to our safety. We stand ready to do our part here in Delaware, and I would urge President Trump and members of Congress to do the same at the national level. It’s past time to take serious action to confront this threat. I look forward to working with lawmakers in both parties here in Delaware to make our state safer.”

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Statement from House Minority Leader Danny Short:
Whenever there is a horrendous event involving firearms and a large loss of life, there is a knee-jerk reaction to do something, anything, to fight the horror and pain. That is an understandable human response, but it is a poor way to make meaningful public policy.

We had a federal ban on assault weapons between 1994 and 2004. It proved ineffective.

One of the problems then, as now, is defining an “assault weapon.” True assault weapons – rifles capable of fully automatic fire – are already illegal for most Americans to own and have been for decades.

What the governor apparently means by the provocative term is any semi-automatic rifle resembling a military weapon, like the AR-15 rifle used in the recent Florida tragedy. According to the National Rifle Association, Americans own about five million AR-15s alone. Millions more semi-automatic rifles of other types are also owned by Americans – the vast majority of which will never be employed in any crime. Such rifles are ubiquitous.

It also needs to be stressed that violent crime in our nation has dropped dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center (using FBI data) the violent crime rate in the U.S. has fallen by 48% between 1993 and 2016.

Passing laws to restrict the basic firearms ownership rights, guaranteed by both our federal and state constitutions, is not the answer to reducing the anomalous incidents of mass violence perpetrated by a few deranged individuals.

I, and my caucus colleagues, generally support a ban on the sale and use of so-called bump-stocks and trigger-crank devices.

And, in lieu of HB 302 (the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act), we support enactment of House Bill 285, which will create procedures for making sure firearms do not find their way into the hands of dangerous people, while protecting due process and avoiding the creation of barriers to treat those suffering from mental illnesses.

In contrast to HB 302, HB 285 has bipartisan support and is far more comprehensive in its approach.

The proposed assault weapon sales ban is a misguided effort that will only serve to further politically polarize Delawareans with no hope of making any real impact on the desired goal of reducing isolated incidents of mass violence. I instead urge the governor to work in a non-partisan fashion with all the members of the 149th General Assembly to create rational laws that will actually make a difference.

HB 285 – http://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=26217
HB 302 – http://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=26250