Wilmington church leaders and citizens rally against the gun bill. But one of the measure’s authors says some of the concern is premature.
Some Delaware citizens fear a bill that would allow tenants in public housing to own firearms could have dangerous consequences.
About two dozen protesters gathered in front of the Unique Day Care Center in Wilmington Wednesday to rally against House Bill 357, which was introduced in Dover last month.
“This bill will push the danger index in my community up by margins that are unacceptable,” said Pastor Derrick Johnson of the Joshua Harvest Church in Wilmington. “It’ll make loaded handguns accessible to a vulnerable population.”
The legislation would amend a Delaware code relating to limiting the authority of public bodies to regulate arms.
According to the bill, “no public body in this state shall have or exercise the authority to regulate, prohibit, restrict or license the ownership, transfer, possession or transportation of arms, firearms, components of firearms, ammunition or components of ammunition except as expressly and specifically authorized by act of the General Assembly.”
“I’m worried that Granny living in a high rise is going to lawfully obtain and own a loaded handgun and her grandson who’s involved in gang warfare is going to end up taking that handgun into the streets of Wilmington and doing something to hurt somebody,” Johnson said.
Proponents of the measure say it protects the constitutional right to bear arms. And according to the bill’s synopsis, “Currently, several housing agencies in this state have adopted policies of evicting or threatening to evict law abiding tenants from their homes merely for the otherwise lawful possession of firearms for self-defense.”
The bill goes on to state, “This practice constitutes discrimination based on economic circumstances leaving these residents at the mercy of criminals.”
Linda Pryce, 53, lives in public housing in Wilmington where guns are currently prohibited. She wants it to stay that way.
“In the past we’ve had some altercations and fights,” Pryce said. “So, for me, I’m afraid they will get guns in their hands.”
And protesters say the bill would extend to much more than just housing.
Pastor Dana Lewis of Joshua Harvest Church has a much broader interpretation of the bill.
“It would allow staff members in many schools and many child care facilities, universities as well to be able to carry loaded guns.”
She also says the bill would permit loaded guns on school buses.
“It is frightening not only for our children it is frightening for our society as a whole,” she said. “It would remove our levels of safety and it would replace safety with panic.”
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Georgetown Republican Sen. Joe Booth, admits the way the bill is currently written goes beyond its intentions. And he says that it will be fixed.
“The bill needs tweaking, it hasn’t gone through the legislative process,” he said. “When everything is said and done, it will be geared only toward housing authorities.”
Gov. Jack Markell has also gone on record opposing the bill for many of the same reasons as the protesters in Wilmington.
Booth says he’s disappointed the “governor and his staff did not give us the courtesy of discussing the bill.”