Democrat Sean Barney mapped out how he plans to tackle the issue of gun violence in Delaware and nationwide, should he be elected to U.S. Congress.
“We have shootings now in Wilmington every 2 to 3 days, across the country we have mass shootings on average every 2 weeks. It’s a rolling tragedy and when it comes to Wilmington, it’s a threat not only to the people who are directly victimized, but it’s become a question for employers who are looking to either create or not create jobs in our city,” Barney said.
Wilmington earned the dubious moniker Murder Town USA in a 2014 Newsweek article for its sky high per capita murder rates for a city its size.
Barney’s 7-page plan calls for a national universal background check law for all gun sales, eliminating loopholes criminals, terrorists and the severely mentally ill use to their advantage. The Democrat also pledged to ban military-assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“I’ve been to war. I fought in Fallujah. I have been under fire. I know the difference between guns that are used by hunters with breath and trigger control to hunt game, and weapons of war that are designed to inflict as much death in as little time as possible,” said Barney, an Iraq War veteran who survived a gunshot wound through the neck while in theater.
“This is an urgent issue from a moral standpoint. It’s an urgent issue from an economic standpoint. And for me it’s a personal issue,” Barney said. “I volunteered for the Marine Corps fulling knowing the risk that might be entailed. People in our communities are not volunteering to have their neighborhoods turned into war zones.”
Located along I-95 in between major cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, Barney said Congress needs to cut the flow of out-of-state guns into Delaware by making gun trafficking a federal offense.
“Delaware’s experience shows that without strong federal prohibitions and enforcement, guns will flow from states with weak laws to those like ours that have taken steps to protect their population,” Barney said.
Citing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Barney said 61 percent of guns confiscated in Delaware between 2010 and 2014 came from out-of-state, and should be traced to help law enforcement close in on the small minority of gun dealers behind the majority of firearm sales used in crimes.
Delaware’s gun safety laws are stricter than those at a federal level. In 2013, following the mass school shooting in Newtown, CT, Gov. Jack Markell passed a package of gun bills.
State law now requires universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole; the immediate reporting of lost/stolen guns, limiting so-called “straw purchases,” where someone legally buys a gun for someone barred from owning a gun; and a bill signed last year keeps guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Barney was serving as Markell’s policy director when the state passed its gun safety laws. He said Delaware’s leadership needs to be matched at the national level.
“We need people who can stand up to the NRA, not just because they have the courage to do it, but because they have the credibility to do it,” Barney said. “I shot for sport as a boy growing up, I became a marksman training in Marine Corps boot camp, Parris Island, training to serve my country, and I’ve been shot at and I’ve been shot … I will have credibility that very few elected leaders have.”
Barney’s plan isn’t all reactive. The Democrat also proposed addressing the root causes of gun violence, like poverty and unemployment. He proposed targeting young people at highest risk of killing or being killed by increasing things like community support, job skills training, mentoring and drug treatment; as well as improving police-community relations. His proposal mirrors initiatives in Philadelphia and California.
A total of four Democratic candidates, including Barney, are vying for the nomination on Sept. 13. The winner will face off against Republican Hans Reigle in November.