Rep. Mitchell’s HB 58 would limit firearm magazines to 10 rounds

DOVER – Legislation restricting the sale and use of large-capacity magazines capable of firing dozens of rounds cleared a House committee Wednesday.

Sponsored by retired New Castle County Police sergeant Rep. Larry Mitchell, House Bill 58 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer or delivery of magazines capable of firing more than 10 rounds. The bill carries a grandfather clause for those who already legally own large-capacity magazines but limits where a person can possess both the clip and the firearm to private property and shooting ranges. The high-capacity magazines would be prohibited in public places.

Rep. Mitchell pointed to several shootings in recent years in which large-capacity magazines were used in mass shootings throughout the country – Tucson, Ariz. in 2011, Aurora, Colo. in July 2012 and Newtown, Conn. in December.

“These large-capacity clips, which can carry 30, 60 or even 100 rounds, serve little purpose other than to fire as many bullets as quickly as possible without having to reload as often,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “In Tucson, the shooter was stopped by ordinary citizens who tackled and disarmed him when he stopped to reload. In Newtown, 11 students were able to escape that horrific shooting when the shooter stopped to reload one of his 30-round clips. In both of these cases, you have to imagine whether there would have been fewer victims if the shooter did not have access to these large-capacity magazines.

“By limiting the size of firearm magazines, we are taking an important step forward to reduce gun violence. This is part of a culmination of bills to achieve this goal.”

Under HB 58, large-capacity magazines would not include devices permanently altered so they cannot accept more than 10 rounds or “an attached tubular ammunition feeding device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.”

During testimony in the House Administration Committee, Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, spoke about his ordeal and urged the panel to release the bill. Goddard, 27, was shot four times and still has three bullets lodged in his body.

“Fundamentally, reducing the capacity of magazines reduces the capability of gunmen,” Goddard said. “Delaware has limited the number of bullets people can use when hunting to six rounds in order to help protect wildlife. It makes sense to limit the number of bullets you can use in everyday society to protect people.”

“Colin’s story is compelling and personal. Colin could easily be your son, your friend, your neighbor and he is living proof of what can happen when a gun is in the wrong person’s hands,” said Governor Jack Markell. “Our gun safety proposals are common sense measures that keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Violating the proposed law would be a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class G felony for any subsequent offense.