Longhurst, Mitchell Gun Reform Bills Clear House

DOVER – As states across the country grapple with the seeming never-ending tragedy of mass gun violence, the Delaware House of Representatives passed two common-sense gun safety measures Thursday that would ban bump stocks and crack down on straw purchases.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, House Bill 300 would prohibit the sale, purchase, possession or transfer of a bump stock, a device that is used to modify semiautomatic firearms so they can fire at a much higher rate.

In October, a gunman murdered 58 people and injured hundreds more at a music festival in Las Vegas. Investigators learned afterward that the gunman had outfitted several of his two dozen firearms with bump stocks, and he had fired more than 1,100 rounds into a crowd attending the outdoor concert.

The bill was amended to further define a “bump stock” and “trigger crank,” provide for a delayed effective date of 120 days for possession, and establish a disposal process with law enforcement agencies.  

“The legislation passed today is the starting point of a larger conversation the General Assembly will have on gun safety. Though we may not be able to stop every incident, we must take steps to address and reduce mass gun violence,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear.

“Bump stocks have no practical purpose for hunting, protection or home defense. They only serve to fire hundreds of bullets as quickly and as easily as possible. To put this in context, the Vegas shooter killed 58 people – that’s nearly every legislator in the General Assembly – and wounded 500 – that’s greater than the entire population of towns like Odessa, Magnolia, Kenton, Little Creek, Farmington, and Dewey Beach.”

National chains such as Cabela’s and Walmart already have stripped the devices from their websites.

Massachusetts was the first state to institute the ban in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. Florida lawmakers also passed a measure to prohibit the sale and possession of bump stocks.   

HB 300 passed 25-3 with 11 members going “not voting.” It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The House also on Thursday unanimously passed House Bill 174.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Mitchell, HB 174 would deter “straw purchases” in an effort to reduce the number of people who cannot legally possess firearms.

Under the bill, a person who engages in a firearm transaction for a person prohibited from purchasing one could face more jail time. The first offense of purchasing or obtaining a firearm for someone not legally qualified to own, possess or purchase one would be raised from a Class F felony to a Class E felony.

“As a retired police officer, I know the importance of keeping guns away from dangerous people to help keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “House Bill 174 is a common-sense measure that helps to make sure guns stay out of the hands of those who are not legally able to own or purchase them by cutting down on straw purchases. With the gun violence that has plagued towns throughout the state and around our country, we have to take action to keep guns away from people who should not have them.”