Gun rally takes on current bills in Dover
Current legislation awaiting the governor’s signature is in the sights of hundreds of gun rights advocates at Legislative Mall rally Saturday, June 25, 2022.
William Bretzger, Delaware News Journal
A few hundred gun rights activists gathered at Legislative Mall in Dover on Saturday to decry legislation they say will penalize gun owners rather than address the real problems of crime.
“People in the state of Delaware feel that their right to keep and bear arms is being infringed by the folks passing legislation in Legislative Hall,” said Jeff Hague, president of the Delaware State Sportsmen Association (DSSA), Delaware’s NRA state affiliate.
DSSA, which organized the event, opposes a package of gun reform legislation passed by Delaware lawmakers recently, including strengthening background checks, banning the sale of assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines.
Democrats introduced the gun measures after a series of mass shootings including the one in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman shot and killed 19 elementary schoolchildren and two teachers.
Republicans have been against much of this legislation and have alluded to a possible legal fight.
The legislation now heads to the governor, who has said he supports these bills.
Plenty of politicians running for office were in attendance at Saturday’s rally to show support for gun advocates, including Sen. Colin Bonini, a Dover Republican, who slowed down Senate voting last week in disapproval of the voting by mail and gun legislation.
Chad Hastings, a self-described gun enthusiast and avid hunter from Sussex County, said the rally was the first he’s ever attended. He said that despite the hurdles, he was able to obtain a concealed carry permit and he enjoys hunting using an AR-style rifle. The same type of weapon that new gun owners would no longer be to legally purchase.
He explained that the law fails to recognize that while this class of weapon gets a bad rap, it’s actually a good option for someone who’d have difficulty managing the recoil from firing a handgun.
Hastings said that the problem with the new law prohibiting “large-capacity magazines” is that the government buyback program doesn’t give people back the money they paid for their magazines. He believes it’ll also discriminate against people who are not able to complete the process to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Both Hague and Hastings said they feel that legislators need to spend more time addressing problems that cause people to commit crimes. The way to reduce crimes starts with more drug treatment programs, education, and addressing dysfunction in families, they said.
“It’s easy to go after the object, to demonize the object, because the object can’t fight back,” said Hague.
He also pointed to gangs and a lenient criminal justice system as those that are causing problems.
“You go after the people that are causing the problem… They need to go to prison and not be given third and fourth and fifth chances,” Hague said.
Other rally attendees, like Sarah Coleman of Bridgeville, said they were there because they support gun ownership and that any attempt to weaken their rights is just a small step closer to authoritarianism.
“We’re just not happy with our rights being taken away,” Coleman said. “And we’re just kind of out here in unison and trying to bring awareness to it.”
Delaware’s gun reform measures may face another challenge.
In a major expansion of gun rights the Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, a ruling likely to lead to more people legally armed.