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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

SB3 and SB6: Chipping Away at the Right to Self Defense

The LPD State Board approved and released the following resolution in opposition to SB3 and SB6 in the Delaware General Assembly, the "Permit to Purchase" and "Large Capacity Magazine Ban" bills:

The General Assembly is at it again. On Thursday, two bills were introduced creating new felonies for possession of firearm magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds and for transferring a firearm to an individual who has not secured an expensive permit from the State beforehand. These bills are not targeted to address the gun violence that actually affects Delaware, but to promote a radical agenda intended to restrict and deter peaceful individuals from protecting themselves when confronted by actual criminals. Less than one week later, these bills are scheduled for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing together in an event that has been reported to allow less than two hours for public comments. If the recent hearing regarding HB125 is any indication, opponents of this legislation will outnumber the special interest lobbyists brought in to support the bill and restricting public comments on a virtual committee conference call will serve to obscure this opposition.

Not only does this legislation fail to address any problems Delaware actually has, but experiences of other states suggest that they will in fact lead to the deaths of more innocent people. Of particular note is the case of Carol Bowne in New Jersey. She was murdered, without the use of a gun, by an ex-boyfriend who was in violation of a restraining order to even be near her while she waited impatiently for local law enforcement to process her application for a permit to purchase the means of her own self defense. While New Jersey’s law says that her application is supposed to be ruled on within 30 days, SB3 in Delaware imposes no deadline for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to act on applications for this permit. How many will have to die waiting for their permit to be issued for Delaware legislators to accept responsibility for making a mistake?

In addition to the unspecified wait times, SB3 will impose additional costs on those who only want to protect themselves. While the bill graciously neglects to assess fees on applicants directly or on those who must appeal an incorrect decision to the courts, the associated costs of complying with the permitting requirements will serve as an obstacle to those living in some of Delaware’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods where the right of residents to defend themselves can least afford to be infringed. Not only will applicants have to pay for an SBI conducted background check redundant with the NICS background checks already required by federal law, but they will also have to subject themselves to the cost of a government approved training course within the last five years that together cannot help but add hundreds of dollars to the already rising price of firearms.

The most egregious aspects of both bills is that they create criminals out of peaceful people exercising their natural and constitutionally guaranteed rights. Whether it’s possession of a magazine holding too many rounds or transfer of a firearm between private individuals without complying with the permitting process, people who have never hurt a fly will become felons, prohibited from possessing any firearms at all or from exercising any number of other rights denied to those with felony criminal records. The patterns of law enforcement at the State and National level all but guarantee that poor and minority communities will suffer the brunt of forcing compliance with these laws perpetuating a cycle of incarceration, exclusion, and poverty that is the true cause of gun violence in Delaware.

These are bad bills that will fail to address the problems they purport to solve, which are not prevalent in Delaware anyway, and that will create criminals out of peaceful people disproportionately in the areas already suffering from poverty and violence. They should languish in committee, be voted down, and their sponsors and cosponsors should do some deep soul searching about how they formulate policy solutions to the troubles that ail our State. They should also reconsider a committee process designed to restrict and obscure the opposition to legislation that will have such a wide ranging impact on the people of Delaware.

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