DOVER, Del. — Legislation to ban the sale of semi-automatic guns that resemble military weapons is now on the table in Delaware.
Democratic lawmakers introduced the measure on Thursday. Democratic Gov. John Carney had called for such a bill after last month’s Florida high school shooting, which left 17 people dead.
“These weapons allow those intent on doing harm to outgun members of law enforcement, and they have no place on the streets of our neighborhoods,” Carney said in a statement Thursday.
Republicans have suggested the proposal is a knee-jerk reaction that will do little or nothing to reduce gun violence in Delaware.
“This bill is a reaction to recent tragedy and is not good public policy,” Rep. Rich Collins, a Republican from Millsboro, said in a statement Thursday.
Collins said the measure will do nothing to accelerate the decline in violent crime and will only infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding Delawareans.
“The real solution is for the state to improve on its miserable record of gun-crime prosecution and hold those who commit gun crimes responsible for their actions,” he said.
Seven states and the District of Columbia have banned assault-style weapons, including neighboring Maryland and New Jersey. Delaware’s legislation is based on the Maryland law, which was recently upheld by a federal appeals court. That decision came only after a rehearing by the full court following a determination by a smaller panel of the court that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines were indeed protected by the Second Amendment.
“Military-style assault weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, describing such firearms as “the weapon of choice in mass shootings.”
The bill specifically identifies dozens of so-called “assault long guns” and “assault pistols,” but it also bans “copycat” weapons. Copycat weapons include any centerfire rifle that has both a detachable magazine and a folding stock, and any pistol or centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
The legislation prohibits the sale and transfer of such firearms, as well as the transportation of assault-style weapons across state lines into Delaware, subject to certain exceptions. It would not ban possession of any weapons purchased legally before the legislation’s effective date, but it would impose restrictions on where those firearms could be possessed and transported.
The bill focuses on gun ownership by civilians and does not apply to armored car guards, police, members of the military, or government officials acting within the scope of official business.
The bill also would allow retired police officers to have assault-type weapons that were sold or transferred to them by their law-enforcement agencies on retirement, or which they purchased or obtained for official use before retirement.
The proposal is one of several gun control measures being considered by Delaware lawmakers. Others included banning bump stocks, raising the age for firearm purchases, and allowing police to seize firearms from people deemed by mental health providers and courts to pose a potential danger to themselves or others.