Delaware Gov. John Carney wants to ban the sale of assault-style rifles and bump stock devices in the state, as well as keep weapons out of the hands of those deemed mentally ill.
Carney released a statement Friday about gun-safety laws he is currently working on with state lawmakers, one week after the latest mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Seventeen people, mostly students, were killed by bullets fired from a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.
“Over the past several years, Delaware has made progress in strengthening our gun-safety laws,” Carney said. “We’re also continuing to work with school districts to ensure that Delaware schools have up-to-date safety plans and to provide training so students and educators know how to respond in the face of violence. But more needs to be done.”
In the coming weeks, Carney said, his team will work closely with state lawmakers to craft legislation prohibiting the sale of assault-style or semiautomatic rifles in the state.
“As we have seen in Las Vegas, Parkland, and in many other horrific incidents across our country, military-style weapons can be used to carry out catastrophic acts of violence. They have no place on the streets of our neighborhoods,” Carney said. He is also urging the General Assembly to pass a bill introduced by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst to ban bump stock devices — the attachments that can make a semiautomatic rifle fire more rapidly.
‘The answer is not the weapon, the answer is the individual’
But Bob Miller, who owns Miller’s Gun Center in New Castle, said going after a particular type of weapon won’t accomplish anything.
“The knee-jerk reaction is not the proper reaction. The reaction is nobody wants anybody hurt, obviously. We want a good system, we want a system that works well,” said Miller, pointing out the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS works well for the most part but can be improved.
“I think we need to make a decision whether HIPAA laws are going to be more important or public safety is going to be more important,” he said. “And I think sometimes the HIPAA law gets in the way of some of these mental health records being available to the FBI and to the states.”
HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a measure designed to safeguard an individual’s medical information.
“There’s millions of people that own AR-15 rifles all over the United States, that lawfully used those rifles that day [of the Florida shooting], or lawfully possessed those weapons that day, and those individuals didn’t hurt anyone. So the answer is not the weapon, the answer is the individual,” Miller said. “We need a better mental health system checking these individuals, and we need to make sure this information is fed into the FBI NICS system and you prevent individuals like this from getting their hands on firearms.”
According to the National Rifle Association, Americans own more than 15 million AR-15s alone and buy hundreds of thousands of new ones every year. The vast majority of those weapons are rarely ever used in a crime.
Additionally, Carney’s team is already working with Rep. David Bentz to pass House Bill 302, the “Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act,” which would keep weapons from those who mental health professionals and judges believe present a danger to themselves or others.
Delaware House Republicans described Carney’s proposed ban of semiautomatic rifles as “misguided.”
“We had a federal ban on assault weapons between 1994 and 2004. It proved ineffective. One of the problems then, as now, is defining an ‘assault weapon,’ ” said House Minority Leader Danny Short, in a response released shortly after Carney’s statement.
Because of the ambiguity over what an assault weapon actually is, Short said any type of ban infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“Passing laws to restrict the basic firearms ownership rights, guaranteed by both our federal and state constitutions, is not the answer to reducing the anomalous incidents of mass violence perpetrated by a few deranged individuals,” he said.
Short added House Republicans support banning the sale of bump stocks and in lieu of passing the Beau Biden Violence Prevention Act, pushed HB 285, which he said is more comprehensive in its approach to keep firearms from people who are considered dangerous.