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Lawmakers pass bill taking guns from people in mental health crisis

Delaware Public Media

Legislation allowing Delaware law enforcement to take guns away from people in a mental health crisis is poised to become law.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill sponsored by State Rep. David Bentz (D-Christiana). It requires mental health workers to report people they believe are suicidal or homicidal to authorities.

Law enforcement can temporarily take a patient’s firearms for up to 45 days without a hearing. Individuals can get their guns back unless the state asks a court to permanently bar ownership within 30 days. Then, the court has to hold a hearing within 15 days to make that decision.

Bentz said he worked to address concerns by the ACLU of Delaware about legal protections for people being deprived of their firearms.

“And the fact that we were able to put tight windows on it," he said. "We’re going to get people a hearing in a speedy fashion and an adjudication in a speedy fashion. As fast as our system can allow it.”

The bill only needs Gov. John Carney’s signature, which he's expected to do. But Carney says there’s still a need for lawmakers to pass the other gun control measures being considered.

“The worry that I have is that people that may be on the fence can say ‘We’ve done enough.’ And as I’ve said from the beginning, it’s not one thing that’s going to solve the problem and not all the things taken together. But if you take them all together, you’ve got better tools I think.”

Bentz says the legislation won’t take effect for six months after becoming law so officers can get training.

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