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Senate Republicans frustrated with handling of gun legislation

Delaware Public Media

Senate Republicans are complaining about how two gun safety bills passed in that chamber Thursday were handled.

The bills that would create a permit to purchase requirement and limit magazine capacity are on their way to the House.


But Republicans continue to criticize Thursday’s debate and vote in the state Senate - claiming an opaque and rushed process was used to get the legislation through before Easter Break.


State Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) made vague threats during the Senate session, then clarified his remarks after, saying gun owners may disobey the restriction on high capacity magazines.


“I think people have had enough like I’ve said, and there’s, well it’s a protection in the Constitution that we don’t have to abide by any law that isn’t constitutional — and these are not constitutional, there’s no way they are," Lawson said.


Bill sponsors say they’ve run them by lawyers who agree they would stand up in Delaware court, and similar laws have been upheld in other states.


Before Thursday’s vote, State Sen. Kyle Evans Gay (D-Brandywine Hundred) claimed domestic violence victims are often used as a prop in gun legislation debates, and many more are killed because of guns than are saved.


But State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) says Gay is ignoring many women.


“To portray what we’re doing as insincere in any way is really discounting the fact that there are women out there that do purchase a firearm, a handgun for the explicit purpose of defending themselves, their children, their family from a known abuser, somebody that is known to them," Pettyjohn said.


Pettyjohn points to a common case against permit to purchase laws used by gun rights advocates. In 2015, a woman in New Jersey was waiting for a permit to purchase a handgun before being stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend.


Pettyjohn and other Republicans worry something similar could happen here, especially if the Department of Safety and Homeland Security fails to approve permits in a timely manner.


Senate Republicans also lambasted the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the bills, where over 300 people signed up for public comment, but only around 30 spoke, and were limited to one minute.


State Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) claims Democrats tried to rush these bills through because they knew it would be easier to pass over Zoom than in person, when gun rights advocates could protest at Leg Hall.


Pettyjohn adds preparations are already underway to mount a constitutional challenge to the bills, if they are signed into law.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.


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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