In the wake of the #NeverAgain movement ignited by the Parkland activists after 17 of their own were murdered on Valentine’s day, the years-long logjam that held up sensible gun legislation because of free-spending lobbying by the National Rifle Association has been broken.
Delaware’s legislature today became the latest to pass a “red flag” law that allows police and the courts to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders, the mentally ill and others who might be a danger to themselves or others.
Students from across Delaware had come to the capital to lobby for the bill’s passage.
In a classy gesture, the law is named “The Beau Biden Gun Violence Protection Act” after the state’s late Attorney General, who fought hard in 2013 to get a similar bill passed but was defeated by the gun lobby in the state Senate after passing the House by forty to one.
Beau Biden, an attorney and Iraq War army veteran, was the son of Vice President Joe Biden. He died in 2015 at age 46 after a losing battle with brain cancer.
“My son Beau always believe that there was room for common sense gun safety legislation,” said the former Vice President.“It is something he supported and worked for his whole professional career, including championing a nearly identical bill as attorney general. While that bill came up short of passage before we lost Beau, he was always confident that we would move in the right direction.”
This time the legislation had at least some bipartisan support and the Democratic governor has indicated he will sign it into law. It will then take effect six months later to give police and the courts time to prepare for the new rules.
This is commonsense, bipartisan reform that will make our state safer, while protecting the due process rights of all Delawareans.
— Governor John Carney (@JohnCarneyDE) April 24, 2018
Under this law, a mental health provider is required to notify police if a patient makes an “explicit or imminent threat” to kill or injure someone, according to Delaware Online.
Police would then determine if that person is a risk to themselves or others and if that person owns or has access to firearms or ammunition.
If the person is a danger, the police must get permission from a Justice of the Peace magistrate to seize the person’s weapons for at least 30 days. The judge can also allow the gun owner to turn over his weapons to a third party.
The Delaware Department of Justice could request to have the weapons withheld for even longer, and the person would be entitled to a hearing to oppose the order.
There is already a law that prohibits people in mental institutions from owning a weapon, but this new bill closes a loophole and extends that ban to include anyone charged with a violent crime but found not guilty by reason of insanity or ruled incompetent to stand trial.
Now that this bill has passed, gun control advocates hope a number of other potential laws that have been held up will pass, including a ban on assault rifles, a ban on bump stocks and a bill to raise the legal age to buy a rifle.
“The worry that I have is maybe people who are on the fence can say we have done enough,” Gov. John Carney said. “Each of those pieces of legislation ought to get a vote … and, hopefully, we will have a package that’s really meaningful and moves the ball for gun safety in our state.”
Delaware will join Florida, Maryland and other states that have recently passed “red flag” legislation, with about two dozen other states still considering similar laws.
Beau Biden, like his dad, was the kind of outstanding citizen that wanted what was best for every American, and it is fitting he is honored with his name on this important legislation.
Now we have to hope it is just a beginning for real reform.