- Associated Press - Thursday, March 8, 2018

DOVER, Del. (AP) - The state House on Thursday approved a bill banning the sale or possession in Delaware of devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic rifles.

The bill defines bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar devices as “destructive weapons,” the possession or sale of which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The measure was approved on a 25-3 vote and now goes to the Senate.

In addition to banning the possession or sale of the devices, the bill requires citizens who have legally purchased and own such devices to surrender them to the government, without compensation.

The gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas in October had several weapons outfitted with bump stocks.

A bump stock uses a rifle’s recoil to allow it to slide rapidly between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, which is kept stationary. By not having to manually pull the trigger, the firing rate increases dramatically, approaching that of an automatic weapon.

“I think everybody can agree that these accessories have no practical use or purpose in hunting, protection or home defense,” said Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, the bill’s sponsor.

Minority Leader Danny Short of Seaford was among 11 Republican lawmakers declining to vote for or against the bill, saying he was concerned about a constitutional challenge on the government’s taking of legally acquired property. Under the bill, owners of bump stocks would have four months to surrender them.

Short suggested that the bill should make a first offense a misdemeanor instead of a felony and include a provision under which existing owners of bump stocks would be paid to surrender them.

“We could spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars and actually buy back these products from folks who bought them legally,” he said.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, acknowledged afterward that there could be a constitutional argument about the bill and suggested that a buyback provision could be considered in separate legislation.

“Anyway, just take them off the street and get them out of here,” he said…. “They’re only here for one reason. They’re on guns that are meant to kill people, and all a bump stock does is allow you to kill more people faster.”

At the same time, Schwartzkopf volunteered that owners of bump stocks are not “bad people.”

“But … every once in a while, somebody may wake up on the wrong side of the moon and decide they want to go hurt somebody,” he said.

Schwartzkopf has sponsored a separate bill prohibiting anyone under 21 from buying a rifle.

Under current state law, a person must be 21 to buy a handgun, the type of firearm most often used in crimes and suicides. But a rifle or shotgun, the type of firearms most used in hunting, can be bought at age 18, the minimum age under federal law. A parent or guardian would still be allowed to purchase any legal firearm for a child of any age under Schwartzkopf’s proposal.

Meanwhile, House lawmakers on Thursday passed and sent to the Senate another gun-control measure that strengthens the penalty for straw purchases, in which a person buys a gun in order to sell or give it to someone prohibited from having one. The measure increases the felony classification under state law for a straw purchase, thereby increasing the maximum penalty from three years to five years in prison.

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