Delaware lawmakers advance gun control measure | Delaware

Second Amendment

(The Center Square) — The Delaware House of Representatives has approved a proposal to tighten gun control laws by prohibiting firearms in churches, polling stations, in other “safe” locations. 

The proposal, sponsored by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, would make possessing a firearm in a school or recreational safe zone a felony. It passed on a 35-4 vote, with Republicans opposing the plan. 

Law enforcement officers, constables and other select officials acting in their official capacity within the zone would be exempt under the proposed new rules.

Backers of the proposal, which must still pass the state Senate and win approval from Gov. John Carney, said the changes seek to close loopholes in state law that allow firearms to be carried around schools, polling stations and other public venues. 

Schwartzkopf said he was “shocked” to learn that Delaware’s current law allows individuals to “put on a bullet-proof vest and open carry a firearm right up to the door of the school, and until they commit a crime, there is nothing a police officer could do legally to stop them.”

“It just doesn’t make any sense to have a ‘safe school zone’ law that allows a gunman onto school property,” he said in a statement. “HB 201 will fix that problem and allow law enforcement officers to take action and hopefully prevent a tragedy before it occurs.”

Under current state law, a person could only be charged with violating the safe school and recreation zone prohibition if they have committed another offense, such as carrying a concealed deadly weapon. The legislation would authorize law enforcement officers to act if they see an individual carrying a firearm within the zone.

The state’s “safe zones” include school buildings, athletic fields, sports stadiums or real property operated by any elementary, middle, secondary or vo-tech school. HB 205 would exclude private property within that zone or when a person is hunting, during firearms instruction, or firearm-related sports on public property.

If approved, the proposal would likely be challenged in court by Second Amendment groups who have been fighting Delaware’s tough new gun control laws. 

In April, a U.S. District Court judge issued a ruling rejecting a request by the sportsman’s association and other groups to block Delaware’s “assault weapons” ban. At the same time, a legal challenge over the law plays out in court.

The Delaware Sportsman’s Association, a state-level affiliate of the National Rifle Association, argued in court that the state’s gun control laws violate Second Amendment rights and Delaware’s Constitution, guaranteeing a right to own and carry firearms.

Last year, Carney signed a package of gun control measures that included a ban on the sale of so-called assault-style weapons, an increase in the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, strengthened background checks and limits on large-capacity magazines. It also banned using devices that convert handguns into fully automatic weapons.

The proposals were pushed through the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in the wake of several mass shootings, including the massacre of 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. 

But plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the law has “criminalized” gun ownership “by making it a felony for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms.”

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