Lethal Violence Protection Order Bill Filed in House

DOVER – Lawmakers filed a bill Thursday to close a gap in Delaware law that makes it difficult for families and law enforcement to prevent at-risk individuals from harming themselves or others by removing firearms from potentially life-threatening situations.

Sponsored by Rep. David Bentz, House Substitute for House Bill 222 would allow a family member or law enforcement officer to obtain an emergency lethal violence protective order (LVPO) in Justice of the Peace Court if the court deems that a respondent poses a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by owning, possessing, controlling, purchasing, or receiving a firearm.

“Gun violence is not limited to the headlines we see in the news. Dozens of gun deaths happen each year that might have been prevented if law enforcement and loved ones could have intervened sooner and removed firearms from a dangerous situation,” said Rep. Bentz, D-Christiana. “A lethal violence protective order would reduce access to guns and help prevent some of these tragedies.

“This bill is modeled after the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, which passed the General Assembly unanimously this year. It’s my hope that we can build off the success of the Biden bill and provide this protection for Delaware families while respecting due process.”

Mirroring the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, HS 1 for HB 222 includes a similar process for petitioning the court to remove firearms from a person who presents a danger to self or others, as well as due process to terminate the order. If an emergency order is issued, the court must hold a full hearing within 15 days.

Also under the substitute bill, a person providing false information to obtain an LVPO could be charged with perjury.

More than 55 percent of Delaware gun deaths from 2011 through 2016 were suicides (331 of 598), according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to The Trace, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States, Delaware has seen a 25.6-percent increase in the gun suicide rate between 1991 and 2015, the fourth-highest rate increase in the country.

“We know the statistics and they’re sobering,” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, the bill’s leading Senate sponsor. “A person’s family knows when someone close to them is a danger and we need to give our courts this tool to close a loophole in the law and protect our citizens when they are in danger.”

HS 1 for HB 222 has been assigned to the House Administration Committee.