As Biden calls for gun measures, here's where things stand in Delaware

Jeff Neiburg Sarah Gamard
Delaware News Journal

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Congress to "immediately pass" new gun restrictions during his first public remarks after 10 people were killed Monday in a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado.

The violent rampage Monday at a Boulder grocery store came less than a week after a man was charged with killing eight people at three Georgia spas.

"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act," Biden said.

Those steps, Biden said, include legislation that would close loopholes in gun background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The two most recent mass shooting incidents have resurfaced the public debate over gun control measures.

Biden pointed to two bills that passed the House this month that would "close loopholes in the background system," urging the Senate to move with urgency to pass both. 

As the debate rages on between politicians at the federal level, here's where things stand in Delaware.

Gun legislation in Delaware

Democrats recently introduced a bill to ban homemade guns, otherwise known as "ghost guns" because they don't have serial numbers or other identifying markings that let them be tracked by the seller or law enforcement. They introduced a similar bill last year, but it didn't pass both chambers before the pandemic hit and upended lawmakers' schedules.

Democrats are expected to introduce two more gun bills – a cap on magazines and a permit requirement to buy a gun – sometime in the next several days. Democrats tried to pass versions of those bills in 2019 but failed after the former Senate leader blocked the bills from a floor vote. A grassroots gun rights movement in Delaware credited itself for the bills' failure after it lassoed in union members and threatened Democratic campaign cash ahead of the 2020 elections.

That same strategy may not work now because several of those moderates who depended on that money were voted out in November. They've been replaced by younger, more progressive Democrats who have expressed support for gun control.

Their progress, however, may be impeded by gun rights groups working to block the bills.

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According to the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, a statewide survey of registered voters in Delaware showed bipartisan support for legislation to require a state-issued permit that requires a comprehensive criminal background check and safety training before being able to purchase a handgun in Delaware.

The group said more than 2 in 3 Delawareans support the proposal, according to survey results.

Guns for sale at Miller's Gun Center.

“This report demonstrates conclusively what we've seen in survey after survey, which is that Delawareans are far more united in their support of gun-safety policies than the most outspoken hardliners who frequently dominate this debate would lead us to believe,” said Sen. Tizzy Lockman, D-Wilmington. 

Delaware congressional leaders respond

Here's what the Delaware delegation had to say after the mass shooting.

Sen. Chris Coons:

“My heart breaks for the families of those senselessly killed yesterday in Boulder, including Officer Eric Talley who courageously put himself in harm's way to save others. Too many across this country have been impacted by gun violence. We must do more to prevent these tragedies.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today to consider commonsense steps to reduce gun violence—actions we can take right now, like strengthening background checks and passing my bipartisan bill to notify law enforcement of any effort by someone prohibited from getting a gun – like a convicted felon – who tries to buy one. 

“Congress should act now to save lives and keep our communities safe. We cannot accept mass shootings as a cost of living in the United States.”

Sen. Tom Carper:

"Yesterday, our nation witnessed yet another mass shooting, this time in Boulder. My heart breaks for the families of the 10 victims. There is no question that our country has an epidemic of gun violence. We can and we must do better. Congress must act."

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester:

"It is difficult to continue to find the words to describe the atrocities that only our country endures. Peace in Colorado."

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This article includes USA Today reporting.

Contact Jeff Neiburg at jneiburg@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.