The past few weeks have been some of the darkest in recent memory. Less than two weeks after a man slaughtered Black community members in a heinous act of racism, 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school were murdered in yet another mass shooting, the details of which become more gruesome and enraging by the day. This followed an ongoing pandemic during which guns became the leading cause of death for children in the United States.
For parents across America, the fear and anger has been palpable. But here in Delaware, a breakthrough for action is finally within reach.
Gov. John Carney and Democratic Leadership of the General Assembly earlier this month announced a sweeping, historic gun safety bill package. If passed, these bills would represent the largest breakthrough in gun safety legislation in over a generation, putting Delaware on a much needed course correction after years of rising gun violence in our state.
This week, House lawmakers passed bills that would strengthen background checks and increase the state’s purchasing age for most firearms to 21.
These bills are common-sense, they will save lives, and they are popular. Still, they will require our immediate action to ensure they become law.
The overwhelming majority of Delawareans support the kind of evidence-based gun laws being proposed, among them strengthening background checks, raising the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, limiting high-capacity magazines and banning the sale of assault weapons like the ones used in recent mass shootings. In a state where 111 residents die by guns in an average year and a nation where mass shootings are on the rise, passing these life-saving bills could not be more urgent.
Many ask me why these measures have not already passed. As the executive director of the only state-based organization committed to ending gun violence in the First State, I have seen how the gun lobby has used their money and influence to mobilize a vocal minority and halt gun safety bills in their tracks. Last year the NRA and their supporters blocked several gun safety bills in the Delaware legislature, and they have already moved to oppose this gun safety package. Their goal is clear: to stop gun safety bills that would save lives here in Delaware.
But the gun lobby cannot win if the overwhelming majority of Delawareans make their voices heard.
Years of organizing by parents, students, survivors and community advocates to prevent gun violence have given us the best opportunity yet for policy change. President Biden made clear in a primetime address that passing gun safety legislation will be a top priority of his Administration. Delawareans are already contacting their legislators, signing petitions and organizing rallies to make sure these measures pass in the General Assembly before June 30.
This is no time to sit on the sidelines. This is a time for action.
As members of the General Assembly consider these bills, they should know that voters across the First State are watching. We are sick and tired of watching people lose their lives to guns in our state. We are sick and tired of watching the latest mass shooting on the news, wondering if our community will be next. We are sick and tired of watching elected officials capitulate to a lobby that does not represent the will of the people.
Delaware has an opportunity to make our streets, schools and supermarkets safer for the nearly one million residents who call our state home. Passing these bills will make a meaningful difference in making sure our state, our region and our country are spared the horrors we have seen in communities across America. It means children that get to grow up and live fulfilling lives. It means parents that won’t know the agony of identifying a body left unrecognizable by a military-grade weapon. It means communities in Delaware that will be left whole.
As President Joe Biden said in his address after the Uvalde massacre, “It is time to turn our pain into action.”
Delaware has the opportunity to turn our pain into action. I hope you will join me in contacting your legislator to pass these meaningful gun safety reforms — for our children, for all of us.
Learn more about the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence at decagv.org.
Traci Manza Murphy is the executive director of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence in Delaware and nationwide through education and advocacy.