Bill calling for 21-year-old minimum age for gun buys introduced

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House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf introduced legislation Thursday that would raise the age for all Delaware residents to purchase any firearm to 21 year olds.

Current state law requires a buyer be at least 21 years old for all handgun purchases, but only 18 years old for long guns (including rifles and shotguns). House Bill 330 would increase to 21 the age of a person to whom another person can sell, give, or transfer a firearm or ammunition for a firearm.

“We already prohibit people under 21 from buying a handgun, and there’s no reason we should treat rifles or shotguns any differently,” said Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach “We need to learn from every mass shooting. We learned from the tragedy in Parkland that someone under 21 bought a gun that was designed for the military and committed horrific acts. Delaware needs to lead on this issue. We may not be able to stop every mass shooting, but we can try to help minimize the impacts.”

Co-chair of the General Assembly’s Sportsmen’s Caucus, State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, took issue with the bill.

“This could have a profoundly detrimental effect on Delaware’s hunting heritage,” he said. “By including shotguns, which are the primary method-of-take for deer in this state – and the only method-of-take for game birds – this bill would mean that many hunters who are 18, 19, and 20-years-old would be unable to hunt anymore.”

Rep. Spiegelman added that the bill has a flaw in that it allows a third party to sell or transfer a firearm or ammo to a person under the age of 21, providing that person’s parent or guardian gives their consent. Rep. Spiegelman noted state law recognizes 18-year-olds as emancipated adults, so their parents/guardians would have no legal authority to grant such permission.

“One thing is clear: the status quo on gun safety isn’t working,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest, the lead Senate sponsor. “As far as I’m concerned, nothing should be off the table when it comes to the safety of our schools, our workplaces, and our places of worship. Owning a firearm is a huge responsibility, and it seems backwards to me that we would allow anyone to buy a gun before we even trusted them with alcohol. We have to do more on gun safety – but this is a good start.”

HB 330 would still allow a parent or guardian to purchase a firearm for their children, and it would not affect current law on possessing a firearm.

National chains Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced Wednesday that they are raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm in their stores to 21 years old.

Trump has recently voiced his support for increasing the age for purchasing a firearm to 21 years old, which Rep. Schwartzkopf said is an indication that this is not a partisan issue.

HB 330, which has 23 co-sponsors, has been assigned to the House Administration Committee.

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