- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Legislation extending the wait time for federal officials to conduct background checks on potential gun buyers in Delaware is headed to Democratic Gov. Jack Markell for his signature.

The bill, which extends the maximum waiting time from three days to 25 days, cleared the Senate on a 12-9 vote Tuesday and was sent to the House for a quick 21-18 approval of a Senate amendment. Sen. Catherine Cloutier of Wilmington was the only Republican lawmaker to vote for the measure Tuesday.

Under federal law, a dealer cannot sell or transfer a firearm to a potential buyer until a federal background check has been done, or until three days have elapsed since the background check was requested.

In Delaware, more than 90 percent of background checks are completed within a matter of minutes, or hours, at most. But some checks require significantly more time, resulting in the current three-day waiting period before a sales transaction can proceed by default.

The bill as initially written extended the waiting time to 30 days, but lawmakers approved an amendment revising the maximum waiting time to 25 days. Under federal law, if more than 30 days have elapsed since the date of the initial background check, a dealer must start a new background check before selling a firearm, meaning a person who waited 30 days under the proposed Delaware legislation couldn’t pick up a firearm the next day without undergoing another background check.

Supporters of the measure, which Markell plans to sign Wednesday, say it will help keep guns out of the hands of people who aren’t supposed to have them. They cited federal statistics showing that from 2013 to 2015, 40 people in Delaware who purchased firearms after a three-day wait were later determined to be prohibited from possessing a gun, requiring authorities to retrieve the weapons.

“We have to end the insanity. … This is like a no-brainer,” said Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton.

But critics of the bill say it tramples on citizens’ rights and could endanger the lives of people who need protection, including women threatened by domestic violence or stalking.

“People have a right to arm themselves,” said Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover. “I know people don’t like to hear that, … but that’s the law we’ve lived under for over 200 years.”

Other critics said the bill was a solution in search of a problem.

“The average criminal is not going to a gun shop and face a background check,” said Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, a retired state trooper.

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