Delaware legislators are considering new gun control measures, but a town hall meeting Monday showed if they are to be passed, it will be done in the face of passionate opposition.
Most of the 400 people at a bipartisan town hall in Middletown, Del., opposed several new gun control proposals in the state’s General Assembly, the Delaware State News reported. Those proposals include bans on so-called assault weapons and bump stocks, measures to prevent the mentally ill and those on the federal terror watchlist from obtaining a gun, and a law preventing adults under the age of 21 from buying rifles.
State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R.), drew applause for his argument that the assault weapons ban would restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners in response to the actions of criminals.
"We’re taking away the liberty of an individual to purchase one of these items because somebody else did something bad with it," he said.
He also pointed out that only two homicides in Delaware were carried out with a so-called assault weapon, and both were by law enforcement. But Delaware State Sen. Bryan Townsend (D.) argued the law should be ahead of potential mass shooters.
"I think we should do this before we have a mass shooting in Delaware and not after," Townsend said.
However, Townsend and his fellow Democrat Kathy Jennings, who is running for attorney general, did not receive a warm response for gun-control views. They both faced boos, and Jennings was even laughed at.
Some in the audience apparently did not believe Jennings’ claim that the state had made a "special effort" to prosecute gun crimes. According to the report, several began laughing when she made that case.
The Republicans also took issue with how Democrats had not capitalized on previous opportunities to pass a bump stock bill. Delaware State Sen. Anthony Delcollo (R.) said Democrats did not go ahead with the bill when it was introduced.
"I’m left sort of scratching my head wondering why it is that we’re not going ahead with this piece of legislation that, when it was introduced, was sort of like the most material thing that had to happen this year," Delcollo said.
A bump-fire stock is an uncommon modification that came into public view after the Las Vegas shooting, in which gunman Stephen Paddock used bump-fire to shower bullets on concertgoers from a hotel window.
Delcollo also drew attention to the Delaware constitution's guarantee to protect "the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use."
The minimum age bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday and would make it to Democratic Gov. John Carney’s desk if passed. The House may vote on the bump stock measure this week, and lawmakers have also proposed a prohibition on the sale of magazines holding ten or more rounds. Delaware state lawmakers are convening Tuesday after a two-week break.
On Saturday, hundreds had also joined to rally in support of the Second Amendment in the state capital of Dover.