Background checks bill passes in Senate, heads to Markell's desk

By Amy Cherry 4:51pm, April 18, 2013 - Updated 6:45am, April 19, 2013
A bill that expands background checks to private gun sales has passed in the state Senate.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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"Roll call on House Bill 35, 13 'yes' and 8 'no.'"

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That after two hours of emotional debate and a failed attempt from Republican state Senator Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) to table the bill.

"This is another knee-jerk reaction that's only going to damn the law abiding citizen," says Lawson.

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He argues it clearly violates the Second Amendment.

"We keep nicking away at it, we keep nicking it until it continues to bleed. It's called death by a thousand cuts in the attempt to control evil," says Lawson.

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State Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington) says this bill makes sense.

"If you don't think that's a good idea, just let anybody get a firearm," says Sen. McDowell.

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And once Senate Majority Leader Dave McBride (D-New Castle) voiced his opinion, it was nearly clear the bill would pass.

"It's a new day. We said enough is enough. Let us start a new path," says McBride.

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He adds this day will go down in history.

"Historians will look back on today (April 18, 2013) as the day that the Delaware legislature stepped up to the plate and delivered," he says.

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But Republican state Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) argues they'll definitely look back, but for different reasons.

"Historians will remember this day. It's going to be a day that the people who swore in oath to preserve and protect our Constitution starting breaking that oath," he says.

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Critics also argue the measure won't stop criminals from getting guns, but state Senator Brian Townsend (D-Newark) argues that's not enough to stop this measure.

"Just because this means it might shift criminals' activity to dark alleys, means we shouldn't support this legislation, it just befuddles me. That's all the more reason to," says Townsend.

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Proponents say the measure closes a gun show loophole, but state Senator Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) wants to know which one.

"As a gun dealer, I would like to know what gun show loophole is because you can't buy a gun at a gun show without going through a dealer," says Hocker.

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Smyrna Democrat Sen. Bruce Ennis voted "no" on the measure after stating that Delaware doesn't have a gun problem.

"I personally don't feel this bill addresses the issue. I think it's a solution looking for a problem," he says.

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The measure also won key support from Republicans Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) and Cathy Cloutier (R-Brandywine Hundred), aiding in its passage.

Following the vote Attorney General Beau Biden voiced his approval of the senate action.

In a statement he says "Expanding background checks is critically important to protecting the safety of our children, our communities, and our state," adding that background checks are an essential tool for law enforcement around the nation.

The bill is the first of four gun reform measures to pass in both the House and the Senate. The measure now heads to Governor Markell's desk, where he'll most definitely sign it.

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