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Bill to secure ammunition in stores heads to Governor, college campus gun ban heads back to House

Senate President Pro Tempore
Sarah Petrowich
Delaware Public Media
Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola (D-Newark) discusses his legislation to ban firearms on Delaware college campuses on Wednesday in the Senate Chamber at Legislative Hall.

The Delaware Senate gives the go-ahead to a bill requiring ammunition to be stored securely in retail locations but sends legislation banning guns on college campuses back to the House.

Sen. Jack Walsh's (D-Wilmington) bill would require businesses that sell ammunition to keep the ammunition in an enclosed display case or behind the sale counter.

The bill was crafted largely in response to reports that over 500,000 rounds of ammunition were stolen from the Christiana Cabelas in less than a year — the majority of the rounds reportedly ended up on the black market.

Several Republican senators opposed the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View), who says it puts an extra burden on him as one of the largest ammunition dealers in the state.

“I don’t have any ammo theft, and this creates a burden on me not only having to rearrange and put in new counters, but having to have an additional employee to sell this, and this will put the cost of ammo up," he said.

If a retailer were to violate the ammunition policy, it would constitute a civil penalty. The first offense would result in a $1,000 fine, second offense would be a $5,000 fine and for a third or subsequent offense, the penalty would be $10,000.

The bill heads to Gov. John Carney for his signature.

The Senate also passed a bill that would make it illegal to carry firearms on Delaware college campuses.

The bill initially added college campuses to the existing Delaware School Safe Zone Act, which already prohibits firearms on kindergarten, elementary, secondary and vocational-technical schools.

But Senate President Pro Temp Dave Sokola (D-Newark) added an amendment restructuring the bill to create a new statute establishing "College or University Safe Zones."

Additionally, the amendment would exclude state and locally owned roads that pass through or are next to college campuses from the firearm prohibition, and it lowers the penalty from a felony to a class A misdemeanor.

The bill does provide exemptions for law enforcement officers, constables, commissioned security guards, active-duty members of the Armed Forces or Delaware National Guard, probation and parole officers, concealed carry permit holders only if the firearm is in a vehicle and an individual who has written authorization to possess a firearm from the college or university administration.

Sokola says the changes address some opposition concerns, but the intent of the bill remains the same in helping to protect college students from gun violence.

“There are increasing instances of school-based acts of firearm violence. Overall, the introduction of guns on college campuses undermines the sense of security that should exist at our colleges and universities," he said.

Republican senators voiced their opposition to the bill, including State Sen. Bryant Richardson (R-Seaford), who believes the bill will do the opposite of its intentions.

"I always felt safer knowing that I could trust someone near to me to stop an assailant. This does not prevent someone from coming on to campus with a weapon — it only stops the people who are law-abiding from possessing a weapon," he said.

Sokola notes 16 other states currently ban guns on college campuses, including New Jersey, Florida and South Carolina.

Due to the new amendment, the bill heads back to the House for another vote.

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.
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