Democratic lawmakers in Delaware are aiming to fast-track two gun-control bills outlawing high-capacity magazines and banning the purchase of handguns unless the buyer first takes a firearms training course, gets fingerprinted and obtains a state permit.
The bills were introduced late last week, and members of the public will have their first chance to comment on them at a Senate committee hearing Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, Democratic Senate leaders issued a statement saying the bills will be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday if they are released from committee.
Lawmakers are meeting virtually, so members of the public will not be allowed to gather at Legislative Hall to attend the committee meeting or observe the floor vote.
"The urgency for public safety laws that will protect Delawareans from the threat of gun violence gripping our communities must be carefully balanced with our duty to provide fair public notice of measures being considered by our chamber," Senate President Pro Tem David Sokola and Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman said in the statement.
They noted that legislation to ban high-capacity magazines and establish a permit-to-purchase system had been introduced in previous sessions. Those bills did not pass.
"These policies are not new and, put simply, Delawareans have waited too long for us to act on them," Sokola and Lockman said. "Too many lives are at risk to justify any further delay in their consideration before the full Senate."
The permit bill requires a person wanting to buy a handgun to complete an approved training course within five years of applying for the state permit. After completing a training course, a person would have to submit a permit application to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The department would have 30 days to fingerprint applicants, confirm that they are legally permitted to own a handgun, and issue a "qualified purchaser card." The card would be valid for 180 days.
Individuals who have been permitted to carry a concealed deadly weapon would be exempt from the training requirement because they already are required to complete a firearm training course.
With certain exceptions, anyone convicted of a felony, a crime of violence or domestic violence would be prohibited from obtaining a purchaser card. State officials also could deny a card to any person "who poses a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms." The legislation does not explain how that determination would be made, or who would make it.
State officials would be required to keep demographic data on applicants seeking purchaser cards, including race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability, and English language proficiency.
The bill requires anyone who sells, transfers or delivers a handgun to submit federal firearms transaction records to the state, along with the identification number of the purchase card used. If no federal record was completed, they must submit the information on a form provided by the state. Gun dealers also would be required to retain copies of all records for all handguns sold, transferred, or delivered.
State officials would maintain a searchable database of all records received, which would be open for inspection by any judge, justice of the peace, or law enforcement officer.
Anyone denied a card would have 30 days to request a hearing in Justice of the Peace Court.
The other bill would ban the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds and would give existing owners of such magazines until June 30, 2022, to surrender them to the state.
Gov. John Carney and Attorney General Kathy Jennings, both Democrats, support the gun-control measures.