Delaware lawmakers defeat gun bill during first day of session [video]

 Lt. Gov. Matt Denn meets with Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, the parents of two Sandy Hook victims.(Shana O'Malley/WHYY)

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn meets with Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, the parents of two Sandy Hook victims.(Shana O'Malley/WHYY)

Delaware lawmakers took on a major piece of legislation during their first day back in session, Tuesday.

Legislators were met by protesters demonstrating their opposition of House Bill 88 outside Legislative Hall.

It was the final chance for the Senate to reintroduce and vote on the bill, which would strengthen gun regulations for those with mental illness. 

The bill, which had strong support from Attorney General Beau Biden, had cleared the House 40-1 last session but was met with surprising opposition in the Senate.

Mark Barden, the father of 7-year-old Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, made the trip from Connecticut to Delaware to meet with lawmakers about the bill.

“I’ve had some conversations over the phone over the last few days and again today in person and it’s been very positive,” said Barden. “Unfortunately since this bill has been back into the Senate there’s been some influence from special interest groups.”

Barden and other Sandy Hook parents were influential in helping Delaware and other states pass new gun laws last session.

“We’ve been to five to six other key states in helping them and it’s been successful,” said Barden. “Like I said, we’re not a gun group, if there’s a policy initiative that we strongly support that we know will result in saving lives and staying within the constitution, we would like to support that.”

Despite his support, the Senate decided not to take action on the bill.

Sen. Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) said they just didn’t have enough votes to reintroduce the bill but said the bill could be revised and reintroduced. 

“People are welcome to revise the bill and bringing it back, I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” said Blevins. “This is a very high priority for the attorney general and I expect we’ll be continuing to work on this.”

State of the State and Budget

Governor Jack Markell said was also in Legislative Hall this afternoon as he prepares to make his annual State of the State address next week. Education and economic development will continue to be a main focus as well as some new ideas he said he looks forward to sharing in his address.

The governor will also have to present a balanced budget, which he said he plans to do on January 30, despite gloomy revenue projections.

While there are many topics the General Assembly could tackle this session, from minimum wage increases to repealing the death penalty, one topic Markell isn’t ready to talk about is legalizing marijuana.  

“I don’t think we know nearly enough about what it means,” he said. “I think there are times that you want to be first and times when you don’t want to be first and this is a time when I would not want to be first because we just don’t now.”

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