Markell, state lawmakers announce missing firearms bill

By Tom Lehman 7:47pm, February 20, 2013 - Updated 11:56pm, February 20, 2013
Photo credit: Patrick Jackson/Delaware State Senate
State lawmakers have unveiled a bill that requires the reporting of lost and stolen firearms within 48 hours of discovering their disappearance.

Gov. Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden hope the proposed measure will help cut down on the number of firearms obtained by criminals through 'straw purchases.'

"If we're serious about keeping guns out of the hands of those who have no right to carry them, we need to do a better job of accounting for missing firearms," Markell says.

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If the bill is passed, those who don't report their missing firearms within 48 hours, would face fines for first offenses and felony charges and jail time for repeat offenses.

If a repeat offender was found guilty, that person could be barred from buying a gun as a convicted felon.

"This bill takes away the go to defense that straw purchasers use in our courts after they're confronted with the fact that a weapon they purchased was found in the possession of a criminal or used in a crime. It's a common practice for straw purchasers to claim they lost track of their gun or that it was stolen. Under this legislation that wouldn't be an excuse or a defense anymore," Biden says.

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The bill is part of a package of proposed gun-related legislation in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.

Denn defended the bill, and the package of legislation against criticism from those who say the proposed measures infringe upon the rights of gun owners.

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"Most of the calls I get and most of the emails and letters I get are in opposition to the state confiscating people's guns, and nothing we have proposed would do that. It is really surreal getting piles and letters of telephone calls asking me not to do something we have no intention of doing and have never said that we would do. So we need to get the word out about what we are trying to do but also about what we are not trying to do," Denn says.

The primary sponsors of the bill are state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and state Rep. Mike Barbieri (D-Newark).

State lawmakers will consider the bill when after returning to Dover in March.

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