Skip to main content
Delaware Senate Democrats

Delaware Senate passes two major gun safety bills

April 1, 2021

DOVER – The Delaware State Senate on Thursday passed two common-sense public safety bills designed to promote responsible gun ownership in Delaware and reduce the firepower capability of deadly weapons.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 3 would add Delaware to a growing list of states that require their residents to complete firearm training and obtain a permit before purchasing a handgun – a measure proven to reduce both homicide and suicide in other states. Senate Bill 6 would outlaw the sale of large-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds.

Both measures now head to the Delaware House of Representatives for final consideration.

“For years, Delawareans have urged us to pass bold public safety reforms capable of stemming the gun violence that has brought bloodshed and devastation to our communities,” said Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the prime sponsor of SS1 for SB 3.

“They asked us to raise the level of responsible gun ownership in this state. They expected us to give law enforcement the tools they need. And they demanded that we show courage in fulfilling our promises to them,” she said. “Today, my colleagues in the Senate did exactly that and showed that Delawareans will no longer allow vocal hard liners to stand in the way of progress as more innocent lives are taken from us with each passing week.”

SS1 for SB 3 would require most prospective handgun purchasers to complete an approved firearm training course within five years of applying for a permit to purchase a handgun. Those permitted to carry a concealed deadly weapon by the State of Delaware would be exempted from that requirement because they are already required to complete a firearm training course.

After completing a training course, Delaware residents legally eligible to purchase a handgun would then be required to submit an application to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The department would have 30 days to fingerprint applicants, confirm they are legally permitted to own a handgun, and issue a qualified purchaser card required at the point of sale.

The legislation includes no application fees and places no restrictions on the number of handguns that could be purchased during the 180 days that a qualified purchaser card is valid.

DSHS would be required to notify applicants in writing of a denial. Anyone denied a qualified purchaser card would have 30 days to request a hearing before the Justice of the Peace Court, which would be required to schedule a hearing within 15 days of receiving the request.

The substituted version of Senate Bill 3 passed on Thursday also includes requirements that all DSHS purge data related to handgun sales after two years and extends the previously proposed implementation date by an additional year.

A similar permit law passed in Connecticut in 1995 has been associated with a 40% reduction in that state’s firearm homicide rate and a 15% decrease in its firearm suicide rate in its first decade, while a 2018 study of 80 large urban counties found permit laws were associated with an 11% decrease in firearm homicides.

Strong permit laws also have been found to help prevent gun trafficking and the diversion of guns to criminals. States with strong permit laws are associated with 76% lower rates of guns exported to criminals. 

To date, at least 14 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of firearm

permitting law, including New York, New Jersey and Maryland. A recent survey found that 74% of registered Delaware voters support gun permit policies, regardless of geography, party affiliation or gun ownership.

“It is reasonable and prudent to conclude that individuals who wish to purchase a handgun should complete a training course, so they are better able to safely handle and use that firearm,” said Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, the lead House sponsor of SS1 for SB 3. “This bill does not restrict a law-abiding person’s ability to purchase a firearm. As a Second Amendment supporter, this is a public safety measure which ensures that a person who is buying a handgun has learned how to properly store, care for and use that deadly weapon. This bill will save lives, it will make responsible gun owners even safer, and it will help keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not possess them.”

Senate Bill 6, which also passed the Senate on Thursday, would outlaw the sale of large-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds. The bill also would create a buyback program and give Delaware gun owners until June 30, 2022 to sell their large-capacity magazines to the state.

A 2018 study found that as many as 36% of guns used in crimes were equipped with large-capacity magazines, as were 40% of guns used in serious violent crimes, including the murders of police officers. At least nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning large-capacity magazines, including New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. 

“Our federal government has failed to act despite clear evidence the 10-year federal ban on large-capacity magazines worked,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, the prime sponsor of SB 6.

“I am incredibly proud of my colleagues in the Senate for refusing to accept their inaction as an excuse,” he said. “Delaware today took a substantial step forward in addressing gun violence and I am incredibly proud of my colleagues for their courage and their conviction.”

Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington North, the lead House sponsor of SB 6 said there is no practical reason for a person to be able to fire 20, 30 or 100 bullets at one time.

“Limiting the number of rounds that can be fired without reloading is a meaningful way to reduce gun violence – without restricting any law-abiding person’s ability to buy, own or possess a firearm,” he said. “Getting these large-capacity magazines off our streets will have a measurable impact on reducing mass shootings where dozens have been hurt or killed.”