Delaware leads the way over federal gun control legislation

    John Watson is a long time Wilmington radio talk show host.  He now calls NewsWorks one of the places where he likes to provoke thoughtful responses to the issues of the day.  


    While Congress debates the gun control problem, the First State gets closer to finding a solution to the issue here at home, making this a safer place to live and work. The General Assembly has a package of gun control measures out of committee addressing concerns regarding stronger background checks, shared by both parties before a vote is taken. One big sticking point is mandating gun dealers keep records of background checks on “private gun sales,” along with the number and type of guns purchased. State law already requires this be done by federally licensed firearms dealers. The opposition is concerned that this could lead to government gun registration leading to arms confiscation. That sounds to me like a violation of Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf said an amendment to the bill would specifically prohibit gun registration. 

    The background check, supported by Governor Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden, is considered to have the best chance of passage, in a package of gun control measures. 

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    Other measures include a ban on high capacity magazines, mandating reporting of lost and stolen firearms within 48 hours, and an assault weapons ban. A new poll released by the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, shows broad support for such measures, including stronger background checks.

    Meanwhile in Wilmington, the hotbed of gun violence in Delaware, City Council is doing its part to try and quell violent gun related homicides in the city, by proposing a gun control package of measures. There was a record 25 people killed in street shootings in Wilmington last year, and Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz, the lead sponsor, responding to the proposal’s opponents, says they are not overstepping their bounds. The major part of the measure mandates registration of firearms at the police department. She says this would provide an “extra tool” to track guns in Wilmington.

    If Wilmington City Council does nothing to respond now, at the beginning of another violent year on our city streets then when will it happen?

    Their proposal took shape after the December slaying of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. There were the typical shootouts between criminals on our streets, including the shooting of a Wilmington Police Officer, followed by the shootings at the New Castle County Courthouse, leaving three dead including the gunman.  Records show that 2,926 people have died in gun related violence since the Connecticut massacre. We are the most gun related violent nation on the planet, with 89 guns for every 100 people.

    In response to those opposing the proposals, Councilwoman Shabazz is quoted as saying ” This is just an action that I feel is necessary for us to get a handle on the amount of guns on the streets of Wilmington.” She went on the say, “We’re just demonstrating that we are gearing up and getting ready, so that when the federal as well as the state laws go into effect, that the city of Wilmington is right there ready as well”.

    Sounds good to me. Councilwoman Loretta Walsh has some words of wisdom on this as well. She says the state has prevented Wilmington from instituting gun laws before, characterizing that as a result of influence by the National Rifle Association over lawmakers. She says the state should allow the city to address the crime that’s affecting it. “If we are the ones with the violence, let us handle the violence, anyway we can. Give us the tools to handle our violence.”  Makes sense to me. What about you?

    The state can’t possibly know and understand how to deal with the violence in Wilmington and other areas.

    They live it every day, and have a better handle on how to fight back. City spokeswoman Alex Coppadge says, Mayor Dennis Williams, who we all know has worked hard for a long time for more aggressive policing, supports the federal, state and city efforts to improve gun legislation.

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