Mitchell Bill Would Limit Large-Capacity Magazines

DOVER – Rep. Larry Mitchell announced legislation Wednesday that would end the sale of large-capacity magazines in Delaware.

House Bill 375 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer or delivery of large-capacity magazines, ammunition feeding devices that can accept more than 10 rounds and fire dozens of bullets without a person having to reload.

These large-capacity ammunition devices are common in high-profile mass shootings in America, including Sandy Hook, Aurora and Las Vegas. Eight states, including Connecticut, Maryland and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, have already banned large-capacity magazines.

“This is a substantial piece of legislation in Delaware’s overall gun safety reform efforts that accommodates our law-abiding citizens while balancing public safety concerns. Smaller magazines will not eliminate mass shooting events, but they can help reduce the number of bullets fired and hopefully minimize the tragic outcome,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand how gun violence can tear apart families and the dangerous implications of large-capacity magazines. With this bill, we are taking a stand for public safety in Delaware by reducing the number of rounds available to shooters.”

Rep. Mitchell’s bill contains provisions to address residents who already own large-capacity magazines so that possession of a large-capacity magazine is only unlawful if it occurs in a public place. Individuals would be able to keep their devices in areas that are not public places, or rent the devices for use at a shooting range.

“Gun violence is a complicated issue that we need to approach holistically. I’ve been encouraged by Delaware’s public dialogue and progress around guns, mental health and enforcement,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, the Senate prime sponsor.

“As important as those policies are individually, they’re even more effective together with legislation that addresses assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Regulating high capacity magazines is a commonsense policy with broad public support, including among gun owners, and I’m glad that we’re including it in our efforts to prevent gun violence in Delaware.”

Smaller-capacity magazines have to be reloaded more frequently, which can give victims time to escape to safety or even stop the gunman. For example, in the 2011 Tucson shooting that critically injured former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, two men were able to subdue the shooter after his gun jammed while changing the magazine.

Rep. Mitchell noted that it is a common technique taught in active shooter drills to use the opportunity when a gunman is reloading to try to disarm and subdue the shooter.

HB 375 contains several accommodations to exempt employees of shooting ranges, members of active military and qualified law enforcement members from the prohibition. Under the bill, people would be able to possess or rent and use large-capacity magazines at shooting ranges.

Rep. Mitchell, a retired New Castle County Police sergeant, filed similar legislation in 2013, which was supported by law enforcement, the Criminal Justice Council, Delaware State Education Association, healthcare professionals, and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The penalty for a first-time violation of this law would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or possibly up to one year of incarceration. Any subsequent offense would be a class G felony, punishable by up to two years in prison.

HB 375 will be in Thursday’s pre-file legislation.