Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago, testified in favor of legislation that would eliminate Delaware’s gun show loophole for background checks.
Kelly spoke before a packed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Legislative Hall in Dover, laying out his case for supporting House Bill 35. “It is common sense that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill should be prevented from buying a gun without a background check,” he said.
The legislation would require background checks for private gun sales. Currently, only licensed firearm dealers are required to perform a criminal history check on potential gun buyers. Kelly said he believes the loophole in Delaware’s law is dangerous. “When dangerous people get guns, we’re all vulnerable,” Kelly said.
Earlier this year, Kelly and Giffords started a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions. Through the PAC, the couple lobby at the state and federal level for policies they believe will reduce gun violence.
“Rights demand responsibility,” Kelly said, “and this right does not extend to criminals, and it does not extend to the dangerously mentally ill.”
Opponents of HB 35 also gathered at Legislative Hall before the committee hearing. About 100 people attended the rally organized by the Delaware 9-12 Patriots.
NRA lobbyist Shannon Alford testified against the bill before the committee, arguing that closing the loophole will not stop criminals from buying illegal guns from other criminals. “[To think] that those people would go to Miller’s Gun Store and get a background check before completing that transfer is on its face rather foolish,” Alford said.
Other opponents of the measure questioned why a violation of the proposed law would be automatically assigned to Delaware Superior Court and not a lower court. They say sending cases to Superior Court could bog down the court system and cause a hardship for innocent sellers accused of violating the proposed law.
If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Markell, the background check requirements would go into effect on July 1.