Two fathers of victims from the Virginia Tech shooting told Governor Jack Markell that the package of gun safety bills under consideration in Delaware that are designed to take guns out of the hands of criminals are examples of "common sense safety."
"Tragedies make clear that lives are at stake - lives we can protect and steps we can and must take together," Markell said. "These bills are designed to protect citizens, protect law enforcement and keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. I am thankful these brave individuals came to Delaware this afternoon to set the record straight on these important bills. Their voices are an important counterpoint to the well-financed special interest groups who are distorting the purpose of these bills and trying to block their passage."
Peter Read, whose daughter Mary Read was killed in the shooting, and Andy Goddard, whose son Colin Goddard still has three bullets in him from the shooting but survived, joined the Governor in his Dover office. Senator Margaret Rose Henry and Representatives Pete Schwartzkopf, Valerie Longhurst and Darryl Scott showed their support for the families as well.
Read brought photos of his daughter Mary, who was 19 years old when she died, a freshman at VA Tech.
"She was the teenage daughter every parent wants to have," Read said. "Her smile lives on forever. We can't change the past, but we can enlarge the future. Gun violence is equal opportunity. As a society, we have a shared obligation to make our whole society safer."
Andy Goddard's son, Colin, a survivor of the VA Tech massacre, has helped launch documentaries that make clear how easy it can be to buy guns at gun shows without undergoing a background check for criminal history. Andy Goddard remembered the days spent next to his son's bed, covered in surgical tubes and scars, as his wounds healed.
"I thought to myself at that moment - we had lived in many undeveloped countries - Virginia Tech was the safest place. In a French class, on the East coast on a Monday morning - who would have thought?" said Andy Goddard. "It's not a question of "how do we get rid of guns?' It's question of "how do we live with guns safely, without infringing on anyone's rights? The issue is keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.'"
Bill 1: Improving Reporting to Federal NICS Database (HB 48)
Federal law bans mentally ill individuals from owning firearms, but many states, including Delaware, have provided little information to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS") database.
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While Delaware law provides that the State Bureau of Identification will receive such information, another Delaware law (the Delaware's Mental Health Patients' Bill of Rights) prohibits the state from sharing mental health records without exception. HB 48 creates an exception to the Bill of Rights for NICS reporting and abolishes the state's existing firearms transaction program, which would then be duplicative.
The federal database legislation is led by House Majority Whip Longhurst with Reps. Barbieri, Bolden, Heffernan, Jaques, Keeley, Longhurst, D.E. Williams, Mitchell, Schooley, Schwartzkopf, Scott, B. Short, and D.P. Williams, and Sens. Henry, Marshall, McDowell, Peterson, Sokola and Sorenson.
Bill 2: Disposal of Seized Firearms (HB 46)
Thousands of relinquished firearms are stored in evidence lockers in law enforcement agencies throughout the State. This bill will allow law enforcement to dispose of these firearms, and provides a procedure for doing so. Under this process, the last-known owner will receive written notice of the law enforcement agency's intention to dispose of the weapon, and will have an opportunity to show that he or she has the right to claim it. If he or she cannot make that showing, or if no party claims the weapon, the law enforcement agency may dispose of it after a 60-day period.
In addition, this bill will for the first time allow law enforcement to dispose of firearms seized from individuals subject to protection-from-abuse orders. Law enforcement shall not dispose of a firearm during the pendency of a PFA Order, but may do so after its expiration of the PFA order, provided the above procedures are followed.
The weapons disposal legislation will be led by retired police officer Representative Dennis P. Williams with Reps. Barbieri, Bolden, Heffernan, Jaques, Keeley, Longhurst, Mitchell, Schooley, Schwartzkopf, Scott, and B. Short, and D.E. Williams and Sens. Henry, Marshall, McDowell, Peterson Sokola, and Sorenson.
The fathers made clear that they support the other two bills that are part of the gun safety package the legislature will consider this session. Those bills are:
Bill 3: Closing the Gun-Show Loophole (SB 39)
Individuals purchasing weapons from a federally licensed gun dealer, such as a store, must undergo background checks. But under current law, any adult can buy a deadly weapon at a gun show-- including dangerous criminals and the mentally ill--and no background check is required. It is extremely easy for criminals or juveniles to buy as many guns as they want as these shows, and it is almost impossible for police to trace these weapons when they are used in a crime.
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This bill would close the "gun-show loophole" by requiring vendors to have a licensed firearms dealer perform a background check prior to the sale, delivery or transfer of any firearm at a gun show. Under existing law, firearms dealers are already required to perform background checks on the buyer or transferee in private sales. This bill would not require licensed dealers to perform background checks at gun shows, but would permit them to do so. The same penalties would apply to violations of these provisions as currently apply for violations of background checks laws applicable to private sales.
The gun-show loophole legislation will be led by is sponsored by Senator Harris McDowell with Reps. Barbieri, Bolden, Heffernan, Jaques, Keeley, Longhurst, Mitchell, Schooley, Schwartzkopf, Scott, B. Short, and D.P. Williams, Dennis E. Williams and Sens. Henry, Marshall, Peterson, Sokola, and Sorenson.
Bill 4: Banning Possession of Weapons by Individuals Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (SB 29)
This bill would make it illegal for individuals to possess firearms outside of their homes while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. First offenders shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor, and will have their permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon revoked. In addition, such persons will not be permitted to obtain another CDW permit for 5 years from the date of conviction for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are class G felonies.
The intoxication legislation will be led by Senators Marshall and Henry with Reps. Barbieri, Bolden, Heffernan, Jaques, Keeley, Longhurst, Schwartzkopf, Scott, and D.P. Williams, D. E. Williams, and Sens. McDowell, Peterson, and Sokola.