People who oppose Delaware’s background check bill for all gun sales showed up in large numbers at Legislative Hall to voice their concerns. But after nearly two hours of testimony, HB 35 still passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
According to House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, lead sponsor of HB 35, she’s not surprised that the bill is moving on.
“I did expect the bill to get out of committee. We had two hearings. We had a lot of public comment,” said Rep. Longurst after listening to testimonies from most of the 56 people who signed up to speak. “Public hearings are always good because sometimes things come across that you don’t even think about and we’ll be adding a few amendments to the bill to make it an even better bill. It will be going forth soon so we’ll have it on the floor on Tuesday.”
Most of the testimonies today came from people who fear the bill will only put limitations on law abiding citizens.
“I strongly oppose this bill. I don’t think it is right that we have to as private citizens go and do a background check for a private sale of a firearm. I have sold numerous guns over the years. Since I was 21 years old I’ve dealt with guns and stuff like that,” said Alex Garcia who was upset by today’s 6-4 vote.
“It isn’t legislation that puts down our violent tendencies, more people are killed with hammers than guns and we can’t legislate that. This bill, HB 35 is unconstitutional,” Luanne Barrett of Dover said.
Although HB 35 would require background checks for sales and transfers of any firearm, there are a few narrow exceptions. Background checks won’t be required if the transactions are between immediate family members, law enforcement officers, or if they involve antique firearms or the return of a gun by a pawnbroker.
Also under House Bill 35, Delaware dealers will be required to maintain all records of background checks.In fact, they can only be performed by licensed dealers, who could charge up to a $50 fee. Right now, licensed dealers can only charge up to $20 under exisiting law if requested for a private sale. However, supporters say the new law is necessary since close to 3,500 people were denied firearms in Delaware because they failed a background check at a licensed gun store all in the last six years.
“This legislation closes a loophole. We all know that 98 percent of gun owners are law abiding responsible citizens and are going to do the right thing when they go to sell a handgun. There are however others who would take advantage of a system that does not make them abide by a law that says they can sell these guns, so if this is passed and it persuades one law abiding person to go ahead and follow through with the background check, then that is one more gun that doesn’t fall in the hands of the wrong person,” said Lt. Thomas Brackin of the De State Troopers Assoc.
You can see more on the issues behind the gun debate as part of the “State of Play” segment on First beginning at 5:30 and then again at 11 on WHYY-TV. Representatives Longhurst and Steve Smyk (R-Milton) will talk about what they are hearing people say about the bill.