DOVER, Del. (AP) - A Democratic proposal to outlaw high-capacity firearm magazines cleared a Delaware House committee Tuesday and will be sent to the full House for a floor vote.
The measure passed the House Judiciary Committee on a strict party line vote, having cleared the Senate earlier this month with no Republican support.
The legislation would outlaw the sale or possession of any magazine capable of holding more than 17 rounds.
Supporters say it is a public safety measure that can help prevent mass shootings and save lives.
“There’s a lot of gun violence in our city. … This is a protective measure for all of us,” said chief House sponsor Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, a Wilmington Democrat.
Opponents argue that the bill will be ignored by criminals who flout existing gun control laws and will do nothing to stem the gun violence in Wilmington. They believe the measure instead infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and would force them to surrender property they already legally own.
“Focusing on an object is not the answer. We need to focus on the person,” said Jeff Hague, president of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, an advocacy group for gun owners.
Opponents of the bill say that, as it is currently written, it would outlaw the possession of virtually every magazine for semiautomatic firearms. The bill’s definition of a large-capacity magazine includes an ammunition feeding device with a removable floor plate or end plate, “if the device can readily be extended to accept more than 17 rounds of ammunition.”
Opponents note that most magazines for semiautomatic firearms include base plates that can be removed to clean the magazine or replace the spring.
“This bill basically makes almost every magazine illegal. … That’s a big problem,” said John Rigby, who spoke against the bill.
The measure, one of two controversial gun control measures being pushed by Democratic lawmakers, would exempt people permitted to carry concealed weapons and law enforcement officials, even if they are not acting within the scope of official business.
The other bill, which also passed the Senate with no GOP support and will receive a House committee hearing on May 11, would require anyone in Delaware wanting to buy a handgun to first obtain permission from the state.
A person wanting to buy a handgun would have to complete an approved training course, then submit a permit application. State officials would have 30 days to fingerprint applicants, confirm that they are legally permitted to own a handgun and issue a “qualified purchaser card” that would be valid for 180 days. Anyone denied a card would have 30 days to request a court hearing.
The bill would allows state officials, if supported by probable cause, to deny a card to any person “who poses a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms.” It does not explain how that determination would be made or who would make it.
The measure also would require state officials to keep demographic data on permit applicants, including race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability and English language proficiency. Officials also would maintain a database that would be open for inspection by any judge, justice of the peace or law enforcement officer for purposes of investigation or prosecution.
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