Delaware residents are responding to President Barack Obama’s executive order on gun control, announced Tuesday, which outlines regulations that attempt to decrease firearm deaths in the U.S.
Several Delawareans say they’re skeptical that tighter laws will stop gun violence, but many say more needs to be done to stop the death of innocent lives.
“It’s not long overdue, but it’s very welcome,” said Jeffrey Lott, spokesman for the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence. “We think the President is doing the right thing in a situation where he can’t get legislation through Congress.”
Under the executive order anyone selling firearms, including at gun shows and over the internet, must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions. Dealers also will be required to report lost or stolen guns immediately.
Background checks will be expanded, and more staff members will be hired to make the application process faster and more efficient. Two hundred ATF agents and investigators also will be hired to ensure laws are being enforced.
Obama also promises to provide more help to those suffering mental illness by expanding mental health treatment. He also said there will be improvements to gun safety technology to prevent gun-related accidents.
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life,” Obama said in his announcement.
“In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ Because people are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.”
Between 2000 and 2010, 332,014 individuals died from guns in the U.S, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 2013, the CDC reported 33,636 firearm deaths—that same year, there were 100 firearm deaths in Delaware. Every year, the number of deaths from homicide, domestic violence, accidents, mass shootings and suicide remain just as high.
“Delaware has just as high a rate of gun violence as the rest of the country, and when you have a country that has 30,000 deaths a year we think it’s an urgent issue and an urgent problem and it’s not just Delaware’s problem—it’s the whole country’s problem,” Lott said.
In response to a request for an interview, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn sent a statement of his support of tight gun control.
“I have not seen the details of the President’s proposal, but I am generally very supportive of thorough and efficient background checks for gun purchases,” he said.
“There are still far too many guns in the hands of people who should not have them in our state, and although thorough background checks are not a total solution to that problem, they are an important part of the solution.”
Mark Derrickson of M & L Gun Shop in Dagsboro said the executive order might make for more nuisance paperwork, but is in favor of common sense gun laws.
“I think common sense laws, as long as they are not restrictive to the second amendment, are fine,” he said.
“If they help prevent some of these people going out committing these heinous crimes and getting them off the street I think it’s okay.”
However, Derrickson said he doesn’t believe the executive order will stop all criminals from getting their hands on guns.
“Most dealers out here, gun shop owners, are legitimate, forthright individuals, they’re not going to jeopardize their license to sell a gun to an individual who’s not qualified to have it,” he said.
“You’re always going to have people who pass a background check, and we have no choice but to sell it to them if that’s the case. Everyone wants to blame the gun shop owners but laws aren’t going to change anything.”
Carl Pace of Trinity Tactical gun shop and training center in Middletown also said he believes additional gun control isn’t going to deter crime, and said the executive order won’t change anything in Delaware.
“Our Governor already put in legislation that took care of the gun show loop hole and made sure that anybody purchasing firearms in Delaware was doing it through a federal firearms dealer.”
However, Pace said what’s more concerning to gun sellers and owners is that the executive order might be the first step to tighter restrictions that would affect law abiding gun owners—such as the removal of semi-automatic firearms.
“An order of this magnitude would put restrictions on law abiding citizens, and criminals will always have a firearm, so you’re only ever restricting the good person, and the semi-automatic firearm is not responsible for crime, it’s the individual behind the crime,” he said.
Lott said there needs to be a cultural shift in the U.S. that changes the way citizens view guns before gun violence can dramatically decrease.
“There are 300 million guns already in circulation in the United States—that’s more than one for every person in the country,” he said.
“We’re a country where gun possession is legal, its constitutional, yet we have to figure out how to make our culture safer, our community safer and our families safer, and that’s going to take a lot of work and it’s not going to happen by an executive order or a single act of Congress.”