Delaware gun control advocates are criticizing state Senate leadership for backing away from a promised floor vote on all gun bills.
The measures would have banned assault-style weapons, high capacity magazines and required a permit to buy firearms.
Senate President Pro Tem David McBride (D-Hawk's Nest) and Senate Majority Whip Nicole Poore (D-New Castle) declined to join State Sens. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) and Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) in releasing the bills from the Senate Executive Committee. It’s a stunning reversal by McBride, who chairs that committee. He’s previously said he would make sure the bills reached the floor this year. Here’s what he said just last month.
"They're going through Executive Committee because I'm going to get them out," he said. “It’s important because I think that the Senate needs to stand up and tell Delaware where they are on all gun bills.”
But this move effectively kills the bills this year. A person familiar with Democratic Senate caucus conversations about additional draft legislation on ghost guns and open carry in school zones are also unlikely to move forward.
Through a Senate spokesman, McBride declined an interview request. He released a statement that said he changed his mind on moving the bills forward because there’s practically no support for them.
"It is my hope that holding this legislation in committee will allow the sponsors to build a consensus that does not currently exist. To achieve that support, the proponents must, in my view, effectively address at least three issues raised in committee: the effectiveness of this legislation in achieving its intended purpose; the constitutionality of these bills; and the criminalization of what are now legal activities" Mc Bride said in his statement. "I believe these are issues that should be resolved through negotiation, if possible; they will not be resolved by protracted debate on the floor of the Delaware Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore also opposed the release of the three pieces of legislation. She said most of the constituents she's heard from oppose the legislation. She also points out a recent poll that found a majority supported the bills surveyed just 718 registered voters.
But Traci Manza Murphy of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence said last year’s midterms shows Delawareans’ support for gun control measures.
“Look at the voters," she said. "Look who they turned out to vote for in a midterm. You know, I don’t think I need to speak for the people of Delaware. The people of Delaware speak for themselves. They showed up on election day and I think they’ll show up again.”
Sarah Stowens with Moms Demand Action alleges McBride tilted last week's committee hearing to favor gun rights' supporters by giving State Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) about 45 minutes to question the bill sponsors. She also argues he cherry picked speakers from the list of members of the public wanting to comment on the bills.
Hocker and State Sen. Cathy Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke) also opposed release of the bills from the Executive Committee.