Guns Online Extremism

FILE - Illegally possessed firearms seized by authorities are displayed during a news conference

As Democrats continue rolling controversial gun control legislation through the Delaware General Assembly without much opposition can do to stop any of it, on Monday lawmakers introduced two of the final pieces of a six-bill package promised to be pushed through before they adjourn at the end of the month. 

Both Senate Bill 8 and Senate Bill 302 will be reviewed in the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday. The former catched state law up to federal, banning the sale and use of auto sears, or "Glock switches," which can turn semi-auto firearms into fully automatic weapons capable of firing "1,200 rounds per minute," according to a caucus press release. 

"They are currently banned under federal law, but because it's not also in state law, that can have an impact on the ease with which state officials are able to prosecute, or arrest, or otherwise deter use of these devices," state Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend told WDEL on June 13, 2022.

The latter bill looks to address Delaware's code as it relates to protecting and shielding firearm dealers in the state from accountability when their actions lead to crime being committed, something Townsend said is uniquely Delawarean. 

"Now the point is, if their actions are reckless or negligent, or they're knowingly facilitating straw purchases or other kinds of unsafe behavior and actions, then they can be held liable," Townsend said. "This removes a liability shield which, right now, gun dealers in Delaware enjoy a uniquely strong liability shield unlike anything else in the country that we're aware of. And it also puts into state law provisions that enable, more broadly, manufacturers marketing sales of guns to people who perhaps should not be marketed to, or not marketed to in that way."

That bill, SB302, directly stems from the death of 19-year-old Keshall “KeKe” Anderson, mother to a 6-month-old boy, who was killed when two underage teenagers fired indiscriminately into a crowd in Wilmington in 2016. The teens had purchased the .40-caliber gun illegally after, earlier, a woman had straw-purchased it for her convicted felon boyfriend, who was orchestrating the sale by phone outside the store. 

An attempt to hold the store which initially sold the gun--Cabela's in Christiana--accountable for their role in Anderson's death, saw a Delaware Superior Judge dismissing the case citing the protection as the sole reason the case was tossed, Townsend said

"They said Delaware has this tremendously strong liability shield and it basically doesn't matter whether or not a gun dealer was negligent in looking at what was happening in the store...doesn't really matter the signals, the warning signs they were giving off. The gun dealer can't be held liable," he said. "We think that's a problem."

These items shouldn't be difficult sells, even to gun rights advocated, Townsend said. Community safety and the safety of Delaware's children should trump politics, he said. Looking at Uvalde, Buffalo, or Sandy Hook, Townsend said it shouldn't take something like that here before lawmakers and the community decide to come together, get onboard, and act--and that applies to all the legislation Delaware Democrats have introduced, from large-capacity magazine bans to the barring of continued sales of semi-automatic "assault style weapons" moving forward. 

"This is not dramatizing it, this is just the sad God's honest truth: the horror in Uvalde is [because someone was able to] go and buy the firearms that he purchased, the age at which he purchased them, the types of firearms he purchased, the amount of ammunition he purchased in preparation to walk into a school, and you haven't committed a crime up to that point," Townsend said. "And yet, there you are with the lethality. Our gun laws should not read that way."

Some of the most common complaints should be dismissed, Townsend said, because there's no need for that type of firepower in the hands of any individual. 

"The catchphrase people say, 'It's only going to punish the good guys, only the good guys obey the laws.' If stores across Delaware do not sell battlefield weapons, if stores across Delaware do not sell magazines or drums that hold dozens and dozens and dozens of rounds of ammunition, that's not punishing the [good] guys," Townsend said. "It makes sure that, in Delaware, you cannot legally walk into a store and buy a battlefield weapon with a tremendous amount of ammunition and walk out of the store and you've yet to do anything wrong. I don't understand the legislators who seem to want to wait until someone has enacted such carnage in the community before we say, 'Okay, well...maybe [people] shouldn't have access to such advanced weaponry.' I just don't understand that."