Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

House passes permit-to-purchase bill with four new amendments, heads back to Senate

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek South) holds two proposed amendments during the permit-to-purchase bill debate on Thursday in the House Chamber.
Sarah Petrowich
Delaware Public Media
State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek South) holds two proposed amendments during the permit-to-purchase bill debate on Thursday in the House Chamber.

Permit-to-purchase law for firearms passes in the Delaware House after several years in the making.

The bill was approved on close to a party-line vote of 23 yes, 16 no and 2 absent after nearly four hours of floor debate.

House Majority Leader and House prime sponsor of the bill Melissa Minor-Brown (D-New Castle) opened her remarks noting Delaware has the fifth highest rate of gun violence in the nation.

"Permit-to-purchase laws work. State's with permit laws have 25% lower gun homicide rates, 50% lower gun suicide rates and states requiring a permit to purchase a firearm were associated with 60% lower odds of a mass public shooting," she said.

What would this bill mean for those looking to purchase a firearm

Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth "Tizzy" Lockman's (D-Wilmington) and Minor-Brown's bill requires those looking to purchase a handgun to have completed an approved firearm training course.

After completing a training course, state residents legally eligible to purchase a handgun would then submit a permit application to the State Bureau of Identification (SBI). SBI would then have 30 days to fingerprint the applicant, confirm they are legally allowed to own a handgun, and issue a handgun qualified purchaser permit required at the point of sale.

Those looking to purchase a firearm may pay fines related to fingerprinting and the required training, but a fee will not be charged to obtain the permit.

A holder of a valid concealed carry permit, a qualified law-enforcement officer and a qualified retired law-enforcement officer are not required to obtain or present a handgun qualified purchaser permit.

Amendments that did — and didn't — make the cut

One initial major difference from this bill compared to Lockman's 2021 version — which passed in the Senate, but never made it the House Floor — was a new requirement that the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security would provide vouchers to cover the full cost of firearm training for anyone whose household earns less than 200% of the federal poverty guideline.

This voucher was removed via an amendment introduced by Minor-Brown due to what she cited as budget concerns, but she said she is willing to work on finding funding for the program in the future. The program was estimated to carry a $1.715 million fiscal note.

Republican House Attorney Ron Smith noted concerns with striking down the voucher program, saying this bill would therefore create a financial barrier to those looking to purchase a gun and would violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Minor-Brown's amendment also extends the validity of a permit to two years instead of one and allows local law-enforcement agencies to remove handguns from someone if their permit is revoked.

Republican members of the House introduced seven amendments during the bill's final hearing — one passed.

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman's (R-Clayton) amendment that passed with some bipartisan support provides an exemption for certain professionals and individuals from the firearm training program, such as armored car guards and correctional officers.

Minor-Brown later introduced an amendment, which passed, exempting those individuals from the training "only if the firearm training they undertake as part of their employment meets the requirements for training" outlined in the bill.

Other Republican amendments that failed included efforts to expedite the background check process, expedite the permit process to those who are vulnerable to or at risk to domestic violence and create an online firearm training program.

State Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) said he would like to support some of the Republican amendments but believes they aren't fleshed out enough yet.

"I think that goes with many of my colleagues, on the other side, who have fledgling great ideas in some of these amendments that just need a bit more time," Lynn said.

State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) introduced an amendment that would exempt information submitted by a permit applicant from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), keeping it out of public record.

Although this amendment failed, Minor-Brown introduced a similar version, which passed, that explicitly exempts application and permit information from FOIA.

Republican qualms with the bill as a whole

Republican representatives expressed grievances over the bill’s $12.5 million 3-year fiscal note, — although Republicans estimated the cost to be closer to $20 million in total — police staffing issues and constitutional concerns.

Spiegelman said he would rather see the money go to social workers, police officers and teacher pay: "This money could be spent on these other purposes, which would have many of the same effects this bill has, including cutting down on crime, getting our citizens more prepared for the job market, things like that."

Republican lawmakers tried to table the bill several times, including Spiegelman, who requested an additional week to work on the bill's language.

"This bill has been out since April 10, 2019... 2024, now you’re still saying the same thing. You had since April 10, 2019 to work on this bill with my caucus," Minor-Brown responded.

Republican House Attorney Ron Smith referred to a U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down a public carry licensing law in New York and a Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down a similar permit-to-purchase law in Maryland in stating why he believes the bill is unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kathy Jennings refuted Smith's concerns, saying she believes the bill is constitutional and the "appropriate courts will rule it is constitutional."

"Mr. Smith's legal analysis pertains to a Fourth Circuit decision — we're not in the Fourth Circuit. We're in the Third Circuit. So whatever happens in the Fourth Circuit is not controlling in the state of Delaware," Jennings adds.

Collins said he firmly believes all of the recent gun regulation bills Delaware passed will not stand in court, including permit-to-purchase.

"I actually look forward to the passage of this bill... once this thing goes through the court system, and based on the precedents set in the Bruen's case, which basically says that if we didn't do [permit-to-purchase] back around the time the constitution was created, then it's probably not going to be constitutional," Collins remarked.

What happens next

Although the bill had previously passed in the Senate on a party-line vote back in May 2023, it will have to go back to the Senate due to the four additional amendments added during the House hearing.

If the bill passes again in the Senate with no additional amendments, it will go to Gov. John Carney's desk for signing.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
Related Content