Delaware background-check bill moves to Senate [video]

Twenty-two House Democrats and two Republicans voted to pass Delaware’s universal background check bill for virtually all gun sales, after attaching nearly a dozen amendments to strengthen measure.

Among the amendments was one that more clearly defines who is exempt from background checks and another that reduces to $30 the maximum fee that can be charged for the background check. Previously, the maximum was $50.

Bill-sponsor Rep. Valerie Longhurst  (D-Bear) said she listened to a variety of interests before proposing the amendments. 

“…I listened to the public comments, I listened to the emails that I received, I listened to the NRA — some of their concerns.” 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Rep. David Wilson (R-Bridgeville) supported some of the amendments but ultimately voted against the bill. 

“The real issue was that there were so many amendments. You lost the grassroots of the bill itself. There were just too many amendments,” he said.

Longhurst, who championed the bill and is its lead sponsor, said she wasn’t surprised by much of the opposition. Some of the “no” votes did jolt her, however.

Appearing with Longhurst on First, Rep. Steve Smyk (R-Milton) had opposed some elements of the bill but said other parts of it were strong. When Smyk voted against the plan, Longhurst said, she was shocked, particularly because Smyke was once a state trooper. The Delaware State Troopers Association endorsed the plan.

“For some reason the opposition has it in their head that this bill is not going to do anything, when it actuality it will,” Longhurst said.

“If someone wants to buy a gun they are not going to get a background check, they are not going to a gun shop and they are not going to get a gun at a gun show.  They are going to get that gun off the street, they are going to go buy that gun on the streets of any city,” said  Rep.Joseph Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley), who also voted against the bill. 

Among the other amendments, one ensures “due process” for gun deals while another stipulates that background check information will be maintained only by gun dealers and will not be used by any other state agency. The latter is intended to alleviate fears that a system would be established to help the state identify who owns guns.

Now that the bill is moving to the Senate, Longhurst plans to continue her push.

“I can tell you that I will be over there in the Senate, making sure that they will have the votes and that they understand the bill completely…” Longhurst said.

After the vote, Delaware Gov.Jack Markell, who had proposed a series of gun bills in January, praised Longhurst and the House’s action. 

“The litany of tragic shootings in other states and in our own state should be all the impetus we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” the governor said in a statement.

Attorney General Beau Biden, a Democrat, said the bill “will do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

The legislature now adjourns for two weeks for the Easter break.  As it adjourned another set of guns bill was introduced.  Rep.Darryl M. Scott and Sen. David P. Sokola introduced a bill that would set up a school safe zone, which would be a new set of crimes for those who bring a gun into a school.  That bill will go to the House Education Committee for review when legislators return in mid-April.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal