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Controversial gun legislation heads quickly to state Senate floor

Delaware Public Media

Two bills changing gun laws in Delaware faced their first committee hearing Wednesday.


The bills would create a permitting process to purchase a gun and ban high-capacity magazines. Both faced heavy criticism from Senate Republicans and some members of the public during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary meeting.


State Attorney General Kathy Jennings supports them and says the permitting process would be an important tool in reducing gun violence.


“Permit to purchase laws are one of several basic gun safety policies supported by a significant majority of Delawareans, including many gun owners who recognize that the status quo — a gun violence epidemic without parallel in the developed world is simply unacceptable," Jennings said.


Some gun owners did support the permit to purchase bill during public comment, but they were outweighed two to one by opponents, who argued many are unaware these bills are being considered again after past versions died in committee.


About 30 people weighed in during public comment, but over 600 others who signed up did not get an opportunity to speak.


Many opposing the bills called them unconstitutional, saying they infringe on their Second Amendment rights.  Others argued they would slow access to guns for people who need them for self-defense, especially in domestic violence situations.


Some suggested they would not do anything to reduce the number of guns in criminals' hands. That included David Mellon, who says criminals will simply go to the black market to get weapons.


“And by limiting our capacity to defend ourselves, we’re going to be outmatched by criminals," Mellon said.


Others claimed permit to purchase laws create a two tiered system, where people who can afford the cost for a permit can have a handgun.


State Sen. Elizabeth Lockman (D-Wilmington), the permit bill's sponsor, says that’s why her version removes the application fee, reducing the cost to obtain a permit.


The bills cleared committee and leadership says they will be on the Senate floor Thursday, citing a public safety crisis.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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