Legislation banning guns on college campuses advances out of Del. House committee

The state is considering several firearms bills that would prohibit guns on college campuses, more narrowly define a firearm and create a volunteer gun owner registry.

Listen :58
A close-up of someone's gun on a holster. On their arm is a tattoo that reads

File photo: In this Jan. 26, 2015, file photo, a supporter of open carry gun laws wears a pistol as he prepares for a rally in support of open carry gun laws at the Capitol, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know!

Three pieces of legislation made it through Delaware’s House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The measures prohibit guns on university or college campuses, define a firearm more narrowly and create a volunteer registry where residents could add themselves to a list that would prevent gun dealers from selling weapons to them.

Barring firearms on college campuses

Democratic Rep. Cyndie Romer introduced a bill in committee that would bar a person from knowingly possessing a firearm while in or on a college or university facility or campus. This past weekend, 18-year-old Camay DeSilva was fatally shot on the Delaware State University campus in Dover while visiting friends.

“College campuses are dynamic, and often stressful environments where emotions can run high increasing the likelihood for tragic incidents,” Romer said. “Introducing firearms in spaces where individuals may be experiencing mental health challenges raises concerns about the potential for self-harm or suicide. Overall, the introduction of guns on college campuses undermines the sense of security that should exist on our colleges and universities.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The Delaware State Sportsman Association opposed the measure.

A voluntary no-buy list

Katrina Brees has been pushing for a measure in states across the country allowing individuals to self-identity as people who should not buy a gun for mental health reasons. In 2018, her mother Donna, a New Orleans resident, drove to a gun store and bought a handgun. Brees said her mother was mentally ill and often had suicidal thoughts.

“My mom would have signed up for this list because she definitely did not want to die,” Brees said. “She always did everything she could to prevent her suicide.”

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Eric Morrison, would create a voluntary list where people request to be added to the do-not-sell list. If a person were to request to be removed from the voluntary list, it would take no more than 30 days. Those prohibited from possessing a firearm could not utilize the voluntary list because they have no choice in being unable to purchase a firearm.

Republican Rep. Jeffrey Spegielman said he would like the measure to require disclosure about mental health resources to people getting on and off the list.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Redefining a deadly weapon

Speigelman’s bill would more narrowly define a firearm in state law. His legislation would define a deadly weapon as a firearm, bomb, certain knives, clubs and batons, razors, a bicycle chain, slingshot and ice pick. It also defines a projectile weapon as a bow, crossbow, airbow, airgun and any weapon designed to discharge an arrow, crossbow bolt or spear.

John Taylor, a homicide prosecutor with the Delaware Department of Justice, said the agency had some concerns with the bill due to changing definitions that could cause additional litigation and the change to the definition of a projectile weapon, which currently includes more types of weapons. His testimony led to a short, heated exchange with Democratic Rep. Sean Lynn, who suggested the prosecutor’s objectors were “political.”

“It seems to be a fairly comprehensive definition,” Lynn said. “That leads me to question whether or not the argument is brought in good faith? Because for me reading it, I don’t see the basis for re-litigation here.”

The bills are now ready to be voted on in the House.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

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