Jack Markell Proposes Swift Response to Gun Crimes
State Treasurer Jack Markell joined community leaders and public-safety advocates Aug. 26 to release his plan to make Delawareans safer in response to the recent escalation of gun violence.
"Like mayors, town managers and community activists all over the state of Delaware, I am sick of reading about innocent people being shot and the senseless loss of life - as Governor, I am committed to assisting local officials to stop this," Markell said. "The increase in gun violence is outrageous and unacceptable. The recent shootings make something clear - we must act, we must target gun violence.
Markell and the group of activists unveiled the proposals at the entrance of Wilmington's Helen Chambers Park. In the past eight days, two men have been fatally shot near the park. The problem is not just limited to Wilmington. Two weeks ago, a businessman was killed in the parking lot of the Christiana Skating Rink as he walked to work.
"Wilmington is prospering in a lot of ways in terms of residential and business growth, but it struggles as other cities and suburban areas in Delaware struggle with crime," Markell said. "Crime is something that affects all of Delaware."
Markell's plan focuses on keeping guns away from criminals by making it harder for criminals to get weapons and getting criminals off the street.
"Jack's proposals are about our families, about our children and about our future," said Sarah Brady, founder of the nationally renown Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "You can't have stronger families without safer children, and the protections Jack will support as governor will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of children. These are common-sense steps Delaware must take to insure that firearms do not land in the wrong hands.
"The residents and officials of Wilmington and every city and town in Delaware are working hard and trying to raise and protect families; they are fed up with the increased violence," Markell said. "The Governor has a fundamental responsibility to keep every Delawarean safe. Guns and the violence that follows them are a serious threat to our society.
"There are some basic, common-sense steps we have to take to protect Delawareans - there's no reason someone needs to walk down the street with an Uzi or purchase a gun without going through a background check. We must protect our communities by making it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to obtain guns."
Specifically, Markell's plan to crackdown on gun crimes would:
FOCUS ON GETTING REPEAT OFFENDERS OFF THE STREETS. Delaware police departments must enforce outstanding arrest warrants and apprehend criminals. Those who have warrants out for their arrest should not be allowed to walk our streets and harm our citizens. We will devote extra police resources to ensure that all those who are wanted by law enforcement will be captured. Several months ago, Markell outlined a proposal for the state to pay for 80% of the cost of 200 additional police officers to be employed in local jurisdictions for two years.
GIVE WILMINGTON THE AUTHORITY TO RESTRICT GUNS: The City of Wilmington should have the power to move quickly to protect its citizens from new threats. Currently, the city cannot impose gun-control measures that are tougher than state law. While the city council meets all year, the legislature is only in session intermittently for six months. The city council must be given the authority to regulate guns as necessary.
BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS: President Bush and his Republican cronies in Congress allowed the national assault weapon ban, which President Clinton signed into law, to expire in 2004. Guns with names like "StreetSweeper" have no place on our streets, period.
CLOSE THE GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE': Delawareans purchasing weapons from a federally licensed gun dealer, such as a store, must undergo background checks. But anyone, including dangerous criminals and the mentally ill, can buy a deadly weapon at a gun show, and no background check is required and no records are kept. It is extremely easy for criminals or juveniles to buy as many guns as they want as these shows, and it is currently almost impossible for police to trace these weapons when they are used in a crime.
LAUNCH A "PARENTAL CONSENT TO SEARCH AND SEIZE PROGRAM": To help police and parents work together to stop youth firearm possession. Through such an effort, police will seek permission from a homeowner to enter a home in search of illegal firearms belonging to juveniles and, if found, the illegal firearm is confiscated but no gun possession charges are filed. When this was tried in St. Louis, consent was given nearly all the time and half the searches turned up firearms - with 510 weapons seized and taken away from youths during an 18-month period.
LIMIT BULK PURCHASES: Traffickers are legally allowed to purchase as many guns as they want. Those weapons then are resold on the street to criminals. Delaware needs to join other states and outlaw bulk purchases. This law would apply only to handguns, not hunting rifles.
TRACE AND REPORT ANY FIREARM RECOVERED FROM A JUVENILE: To stop youth from carrying and using guns, the police must investigate where juvenile criminals are getting guns illegally and crack down on those sources.
USE STAY-AWAY ORDERS: As a condition of probation, drug dealers and certain violent offenders can be prohibited from returning to the neighborhood where they have committed crimes. The orders can be widely publicized in an effort to try to deter some from violent behavior that may lead to this form of banishment.
"Jack wants to make it tougher for criminals to threaten law-abiding citizens," said Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a retired Delaware State Police captain. "If you're not a criminal, you're not affected by this. Banning assault weapons, limiting bulk purchases of guns and closing the gun show loophole will make all of us safer."