DOVER, Del. (AP) — A bill outlawing firearm magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds passed Delaware’s Democrat-led Senate on Tuesday with no Republican support.
The legislation was approved on a 13-7 vote, with Sen. Bruce Ennis of Smyrna, a retired state trooper, the lone Democrat to join GOP lawmakers in opposition.READ MORE: Viewing Underway For Fallen Firefighter Lt. Sean Williamson In South Philadelphia: 'It's A Terrible Tragedy'
The measure is part of a package of gun-control bills that Democrats want to push through the legislature this month after recent mass shootings in other states. It now goes to the House, which is also controlled by Democrats and which amended a similar Senate bill last year to allow 20 rounds for handguns and 30 rounds for long guns.
The substitute bill approved Tuesday reverts to the 17-round limit. It also eliminates an exemption approved in the House for a Georgetown business that manufactures firearm magazines and could be forced to close if the bill becomes law. Violation of the ban would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Possession of an outlawed magazine during the commission of a felony would carry a mandatory two-year prison term and a maximum sentence of 25 years behind bars.
Senate President Pro Tem David Sokola said the bill is a necessary public safety measure and similar magazine restrictions in other states have proven effective in reducing shooting deaths.
“The time it takes a shooter to reload their weapon can be critical to allowing victims to escape,” said Sokola, adding that magazine restrictions have been upheld by courts.
Opponents argue that the bill, which prohibits the manufacture, sale and possession of any magazine “capable of accepting, or that can readily be converted to hold, more than 17 rounds of ammunition,” will outlaw every magazine sold with modern semiautomatic weapons. They note that almost every magazine has a removable base plate that allows for cleaning and replacement of the spring that feeds bullets into the chamber — and which also makes it easy to convert a magazine to hold more rounds.
“Virtually all firearms that accept magazines … will be made illegal because of the fact they all have the ability to be readily modified,” said Anthony Delcollo, an attorney for the Republican minority caucus.READ MORE: Phillies' Bryce Harper Out Indefinitely With Broken Thumb After Being Hit By Pitch In 4-2 Win Over Padres
Majority Leader Bryan Townsend suggested that such concerns are unwarranted because the substitute bill removes language in the previous version that referred to removable base plates. The previous version outlawed any magazine “with a removable floor plate or end plate, if the device can readily be extended to accept more than 17 rounds of ammunition.”
“Having a removable base plate does not in any way automatically mean that a magazine is readily converted to a large capacity. … Having a removable base plate does not automatically mean that a magazine is prohibited,” Townsend said.
Delcollo, meanwhile, said the measure may not withstand a court challenge under Delaware’s state constitution, which includes more explicit gun ownership protections than does the U.S. Constitution. Delaware’s constitution specifically protects a person’s right to keep and bear arms “for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.”
“It’s likely this would not meet muster for a Delaware constitutional challenge,” said Delcollo, a former GOP state senator.
The bill exempts current and retired police officers, government and military personnel acting within the scope of their duties, and holders of concealed carry permits. It also exempts firearms dealers who sell to those exempt individuals or to other licensed gun dealers.
The legislation calls for $45,000 to be set aside for a program to buy back prohibited magazines from people who currently legally possess them for $10 each. The previous version of the bill set aside $15,000 for the buyback program. Unlike the current version, it also included specific language mandating that people who currently legally possess such magazines surrender them to the state.MORE NEWS: South Philadelphia Shooting Leaves 2 Men Injured: Police
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