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Del. governor wants to stop 'assault weapons' sales. He's not the only official calling for the ban.
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Del. governor wants to stop 'assault weapons' sales. He's not the only official calling for the ban.

Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) said Friday that he is proposing a statewide ban on the sale of "assault weapons" in the wake of the deadly Florida high school shooting, which killed 17 people and injured many more on Feb. 14.

What did Carney say?

Carney explained that, in addition to other statewide gun safety measures in the works, his team will "work closely with lawmakers to craft legislation that would prohibit the sale of assault-style rifles" in the state.

"As we have seen in Las Vegas, Parkland, and in many other horrific incidents across our country, military-style weapons can be used to carry out catastrophic acts of violence," Carney noted. "They have no place on the streets of our neighborhoods."

According to spokesman Jonathan Starkey, Carney is not aiming to ban "military-style" guns that have already been legally purchased, but instead has aims to prevent any more of these weapons from being purchased from local gun shops, according to Delaware Online.

"President [Donald] Trump and members of Congress have the authority to take responsible action nationally to reduce the toll of gun violence across our country," Starkey added, according to the Washington Post. "Governor Carney believes they should act but won’t wait to do what is within our power here in Delaware to make our state safer."

Delaware Online reported that Carney's definitions of the terms "assault-style rifles" and "military-style weapons" — terms that were used interchangeably in his statement — were not clear.

In response to Carney's announcement, House Republican Leader Danny Short released the following statement:

Whenever there is a horrendous event involving firearms and a large loss of life, there is a knee-jerk reaction to do something, anything, to fight the horror and pain. That is an understandable human response, but it is a poor way to make meaningful public policy.

We had a federal ban on assault weapons between 1994 and 2004. It proved ineffective.

One of the problems then, as now, is defining an "assault weapon." True assault weapons — rifles capable of fully automatic fire — are already illegal for most Americans to own and have been for decades.

What the governor apparently means by the provocative term is any semi-automatic rifle resembling a military weapon, like the AR-15 rifle used in the recent Florida tragedy. According to the National Rifle Association, Americans own about five million AR-15s alone. Millions more semi-automatic rifles of other types are also owned by Americans — the vast majority of which will never be employed in any crime. Such rifles are ubiquitous.

It also needs to be stressed that violent crime in our nation has dropped dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center (using FBI data) the violent crime rate in the U.S. has fallen by 48% between 1993 and 2016.

Passing laws to restrict the basic firearms ownership rights, guaranteed by both our federal and state constitutions, is not the answer to reducing the anomalous incidents of mass violence perpetrated by a few deranged individuals.

I, and my caucus colleagues, generally support a ban on the sale and use of so-called bump-stocks and trigger-crank devices.

And, in lieu of HB 302 (the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act), we support enactment of House Bill 285, which will create procedures for making sure firearms do not find their way into the hands of dangerous people, while protecting due process and avoiding the creation of barriers to treat those suffering from mental illnesses.

In contrast to HB 302, HB 285 has bipartisan support and is far more comprehensive in its approach.

The proposed assault weapon sales ban is a misguided effort that will only serve to further politically polarize Delawareans with no hope of making any real impact on the desired goal of reducing isolated incidents of mass violence. I instead urge the governor to work in a non-partisan fashion with all the members of the 149th General Assembly to create rational laws that will actually make a difference.

Are there any other state officials looking into doing something similar?

  • Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D), the leading DFL candidate for Minnesota governor and a lawmaker once supported by the NRA, is also proposing a similar statewide ban.
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said last week that he wants to find a way to limit the "God-darn AR-15" and has scrubbed portions of his pro-gun section on his website.
  • Ohio gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich has also called for a statewide ban on the AR-15.
  • South Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Smith has called for a statewide ban on the AR-15, as well as on bump stocks and trigger cranks.

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