Legislation requiring gun owners to report a missing or stolen firearm cleared Delaware’s Senate by one vote.
Under Senate Bill 16, gun owners have one week to notify police; the seven-day clock, however, starts running when the gun owner discovers the weapons are missing.
“A lot of the time a straw purchaser will legally buy a gun and sell it to a criminal,” Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry said. “But when that gun is used in a crime, the purchaser will sometimes say their weapon was stolen. It’s my hope this bill will attack that kind of behavior and that straw purchasers will rethink abusing their Second Amendment freedom.”
Senate Republican Leader Gary Simpson voted against the measure. Speaking exclusively to WHYY and NewsWorks, Sen. Simpson, R-Milford, says SB 16 could make criminals out of victims.
“I know where my shotgun is located, but I haven’t looked in that closet in maybe the last month, so I don’t know whether someone’s come in and stolen it. But now, according to this bill, I may have already committed a crime. I’m the criminal here,” Simpson said.
Penalties for first offenders would be a misdemeanor charge and a maximum fine of $100; the max fine for a second offense jumps to $250; repeat offenders could face a felony charge.
“These are tough, but fair, penalties,” Henry, D-Wilmington East, said. “If someone makes an honest mistake, the penalty is designed to get their attention and, if they make a habit of failing to report, they would be subject to a felony conviction.”
But Sen. Simpson argues the bill is totally unenforceable.
“When the police finally determine that I had my gun stolen, all I have to say is ‘I didn’t realize it was stolen, I didn’t realize it was lost.’ It’s going to be very difficult to prove. It just goes against common sense and we shouldn’t be passing unenforceable legislation in any form just to make people feel good.”
The bill now moves to the House Administration Committee for consideration. A public hearing is scheduled Wednesday afternoon.
SB 16 is the one of five gun measures included in a package of gun bills introduced by Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del, a month after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.