Set for a House Vote on Tuesday
A bill that could force Delaware gun sellers out of business is set to be worked in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 302 seeks to eliminate existing civil liability protections for people and businesses engaged in the sale, manufacturing, distribution, importing, or marketing of firearms and related products.
The bill cleared the Senate last week on a contested vote of 13 to 8.
The measure seeks to allow private lawsuits against any member of “the firearms industry” that knowingly or recklessly creates, maintains, or contributes to a “public nuisance” — a term the measure defines as “a condition which injures, endangers — or threatens to injure or endanger — the health, safety, peace, comfort, or convenience of others.”
Under certain conditions, the bill would allow any gun seller or maker to be held liable for criminal acts committed by third parties.
The state attorney general’s office would be empowered under the bill to take a broad range of actions against any member of the firearms industry it perceives as violating the legislation.
The sponsors of the measure named it the “Keshall ‘KeKe’ Anderson Safe Firearm Sales Act,” referencing a 2016 case where a bystander was killed with a firearm acquired through a straw purchase. In a subsequent lawsuit (Summers v. Cabela’s Wholesale, Inc.) by the victim’s family, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that the dealer was shielded from liability. At Wednesday’s hearing, supporters of SB 302 repeatedly referred to the case as justification for the legislation, even though the proceedings in that trial revealed that Cabela’s had followed the proper procedures, performed the required criminal background check on the buyer, and conducted a legal sale.
Testifying before the House Administration Committee on Wednesday, Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association President Jeff Hague said the bill appears intended to force gun sellers to close their doors.
“This bill creates a whole new definition of public nuisance and it’s directed solely at the firearms industry,” he said. “This industry is being singled out, I think…to put it out of business.”
Mr. Hague added that the bill would force gun shop “employees and owners to be psychics, mind-readers, psychiatrists, and psychologists.” He added that earlier testimony in the Senate indicated that if the legislation were to become law, the resulting liability exposure would make it impossible for gun shops to get the insurance coverage they need to operate.