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Democratic state lawmakers at odds over amendment to gun storage legislation

Delaware Public Media

An amendment to a controversial gun measure is dividing Delaware Democratic lawmakers ahead of a key vote.

If State Rep. Sean Lynn’s  (D-Dover North) gun storage bill survives a Senate vote set for Wednesday, it’s likely to become law.

The legislation adds criminal penalties for gun owners who let loaded firearms fall into hands of people not allowed to possess one. It expands current law targeting minors accessing loaded guns.

State Sen. Bryan Townsend’s (D- Newark) amendment would require prosecutors prove several elements to make it a crime. Those include showing the gun wasn’t in a lockbox, didn’t have a trigger lock and wasn’t stored in a reasonably secure place. Prosecutors would also have to prove the person didn’t obtain the gun by breaking and entering.

Lynn said it’s not only a poison pill, it’s unconstitutional based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

“Why would anyone lock their firearm with a trigger lock, put it in a box and then hide the box," he said. "That’s the way that the amendment is written, which violates Heller. In an emergency, you’d never be able to access your firearm.”

Townsend declined to answer questions. But State Sen. Anthony Delcollo (R- Elsmere) said he believes Lynn’s bill is unconstitutional without the amendment.

“If we were saying that the only way to not be charged would be to have a trigger lock, then it would potentially violate Heller," he said. "But you can not have a trigger lock and have the firearm placed somewhere reasonably and someone breaks into your house, then you cannot bring a charge.”

Some Democrats like State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Brandywine West) have removed their names from the amendment ahead of Wednesday's scheuled vote.

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