Gun Safety Measures Released from Committee

DOVER – A House committee on Wednesday released two gun control measures that would ensure that firearms do not end up in the hands of those who present a danger to themselves or others and limit the types of guns young people could legally purchase.

Sponsored by Rep. David Bentz, House Substitute 1 for House Bill 302 would ensure that firearms are not in the hands of those who present a danger to themselves or others. Under the bill, health professionals would have to report to law enforcement anyone they believe presents a danger to themselves or others. If a judge agrees, the person would have to relinquish their firearms.

“We have an obligation to prevent senseless gun violence whenever possible. When a person presents a danger to themselves or others, mental health professionals can help prevent some of these tragedies and save lives,” said Rep. Bentz, D-Christiana. “The Beau Biden bill achieves a balance between promoting public safety and sensible gun control policy while protecting the due process and Second Amendment rights of Delawareans. This balance is why there was so much consensus among mental health professionals, Second Amendment advocates, and legislators of both parties.”

Additionally, the bill would prohibit a person committed to a hospital for treatment of a mental condition from possessing or obtaining a firearm. A person charged with a violent crime who is found not guilty by insanity, guilty but mentally ill, or mentally incompetent to stand trial also would not be permitted to obtain a gun.

Dubbed the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act – named after the late former Delaware Attorney General – the bill won unanimous support from the House Administration Committee.

The bill has been placed on the House agenda for Thursday.

The committee also unanimously released House Substitute 1 for House Bill 330, which would change the age of a person who can legally buy or receive most firearms and ammunition from 18 to 21. Current state law requires a buyer be at least 21 years old for all handgun purchases, but only 18 years old for long guns (including rifles and shotguns).

Sponsored by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the bill includes several exemptions: Active members of the military or a law-enforcement officer or a person with a carry-concealed permit above the age of 18 could purchase any long gun. The other exemption would allow anyone 18 years and older to purchase shotguns and muzzle-loading rifles and their ammunition.

“We already prohibit people under 21 from buying a handgun, and there’s no reason we should treat rifles any differently,” said Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach “We need to learn from every mass shooting. We learned from the tragedy in Parkland that someone under 21 bought a gun that was designed for the military and committed horrific acts. Delaware needs to lead on this issue. We may not be able to stop every mass shooting, but we can try to help minimize the impacts.”

According to the Giffords Law Center, two other states, Hawaii and Illinois, require a person to be 21 to purchase a long gun. The others, including Delaware, follow the federal requirement of 18 years of age.