Legislation Provides No Opportunity for
Citizens Already Owning Such Items to Comply
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill seeking to ban the possession and manufacture of so-called “ghost guns” — firearms and components lacking serial numbers.
Supporters of the measure claim it is intended to address apprehensions over homemade firearms that lack the identifying markings required on traditionally manufactured guns.
Sponsored by State House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear, Delaware City), House Bill 125, as amended, would create new offenses, all of which are Class D and E felonies. Acts that would be prohibited under the measure include using a 3-D printer to make a “firearm, firearm receiver, or major firearm component” or distributing data files that could be used to create such devices.
The bill has some limited exemptions including muzzleloaders, antique guns made before 1898, or replicas of these firearms.
Commenting on the measure in March, Rick Armitage, a lobbyist representing the National Rifle Association, said while the NRA recognized the legitimate concerns of the law enforcement community related to untraceable firearms, he said the bill should be changed to allow hobbyists to continue the unique experience of building their own firearm – a practice which is allowed by federal law.
Opponents of the bill say that firearms made by hobbyists — using parts they make or partially finished components they purchase and complete — are very rarely used to commit crimes. They also note the bill provides no path forward for Delawareans who already own guns or components that would be banned. It contains no protocol for allowing citizens to make these items compliant, nor to compensate owners for the lost value once their property becomes illegal.
State House Minority Whip Tim Dukes (R-Laurel) said the bill would quickly make many law-abiding citizens into potential felons. He said his son is a hobbyist who has built three guns that would be considered illegal under the bill.
“He enjoys going out to the back of his property — where it is very private, very quiet — to target shoot,” Rep. Dukes told his House colleagues. “With the passage of this bill, and the signature of the governor, my son would become a felon.”
State House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) introduced an amendment that would have provided a plan for citizens owning firearm components lacking serial numbers to make these items complaint with the legislation.
Rep. Longhurst characterized the amendment as “unfriendly” and it was defeated, 18 to 23, with House Democrats casting all the dissenting votes.
The bill was ultimately passed by House by the same 23-to-18 margin, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
Should the Senate approve the legislation as expected, the bill would take effect 90 days after the governor signs it into law.
PHOTO: AR-15 “80% Lower Receiver”