Wilmington City Council pumps brakes on ‘gun offender’ registration

Delaware’s largest city last week put a plan to create a sexual offender-like registry for those who have committed gun crimes on the back burner.

The measure, Ordinance 17-023, would require all gun offenders living in the city limits within two days of release to report to the Wilmington Police Department and add their information to a registry kept by the agency under threat of up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

While its sponsor, Councilmember Bob Williams, a former Wilmington cop, argued it would help curb gun violence Council President Hanifa Shabazz argued it may be unreasonable and helped hold the proposal for further discussion.

“How realistic is it for that person to accomplish all that is required of them?” said Shabazz, as reported by Delaware Online. “They come out and already have so many things they have to do. You do have to pay a cost when you do the wrong thing … But we also don’t want to set them up for failure.”

The proposed ordinance, filed last month, would require registrants to be photographed, verify registry information every six months, and provide notification of change of address within 10 days of moving. Those liable to register would be any with convictions of a number of Delaware’s gun laws, as well as city codes to include hunting inside city limits or possession of armor piercing bullets. Offenders would remain on file for three years, and their information could be shared with other agencies

Brown noted that Baltimore, Chicago and New York City all have similar registries in effect and argued the database can be created with existing resources and personnel.

While it has the support of Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, who in the past has worked in both New York and Chicago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware opposes the measure, citing the potential for abuse of power granted by the language of the bill and questions over how it will be implemented.

Gun offender registry acts have been around for a decade, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signing the first one into law in 2006. They have, however, proven contentious with a 2015 law adopted in Cleveland, Ohio overturned by the courts earlier this year following a lawsuit from gun rights advocates.

It is expected that the Wilmington City Council may take up the matter again in coming months.