Legislator proposes on large capacity magazines with some exemptions

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A retired New Castle County Police sergeant hasannounced legislation Wednesday that would end the sale of large-capacity magazines in Delaware while offering exemptions for possession by users.

House Bill 375, sponsored by Rep. Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere,would prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer or delivery of large-capacity magazines, ammunition feeding devices that can accept more than 10 rounds and fire dozens of bullets without reloading.

The devices have been used in mass shootings in America, including Sandy Hook, Aurora and Las Vegas, a release stated. Eight states, including Connecticut, Maryland and New York, have banned large-capacity magazines.

“This is a substantial piece of legislation in Delaware’s overall gun safety reform efforts that accommodates our law-abiding citizens while balancing public safety concerns. Smaller magazines will not eliminate mass shooting events, but they can help reduce the number of bullets fired and hopefully minimize the tragic outcome,” said Mitchell. “As a former law enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand how gun violence can tear apart families and the dangerous implications of large-capacity magazines. With this bill, we are taking a stand for public safety in Delaware by reducing the number of rounds available to shooters.”

Mitchell’s bill contains provisions to address residents who already own large-capacity magazines so that possession of a large-capacity magazine is only unlawful if it occurs in a public place. Individuals would be able to keep their devices in areas that are not public places, or rent the devices for use at a shooting range.

HB 375 contains accommodations to exempt employees of shooting ranges, members of active military and qualified law enforcement members from the ban. Under the bill, people would be able to possess or rent and use large-capacity magazines at shooting ranges.

Smaller-capacity magazines have to be reloaded more frequently, which can give victims time to escape to safety or even stop the gunman. In the 2011 Tucson shooting that critically injured former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, two men were able to subdue the shooter after his gun jammed while changing the magazine.

Rep. Mitchell noted that it is a common technique taught in active shooter drills to use the opportunity when a gunman is reloading to try to disarm and subdue the shooter.

Mitchell, filed similar legislation in 2013, which was supported by law enforcement, the Criminal Justice Council, Delaware State Education Association, healthcare professionals, and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The penalty for a first-time violation of this law would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or possibly up to one year of incarceration. Any subsequent offense would be a class G felony, punishable by up to two years in prison.

The legislation, while having broad support, will be opposed by some gun enthusiasts who protest any restriction and see any legislation as leading to further steps to restrict gun use.

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