Planned gun offender registry tanks in Wilmington

Delaware’s largest city last week rejected a plan to create a sex offender-like registry for those who have committed gun crimes.

The measure, Ordinance 17-023, would have required all gun offenders living in the city limits 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. In the end, the move failed in a 6-5 vote Friday.

Those who voted against the measure said it would have penalized those who had already paid their debt to society. “This is nothing but double jeopardy,” said Councilman Nnamdi Chukwoucha. “We’re just placing them in another form of probation or being under city supervision. I think it’s uncalled for.”

Councilman Bob Williams, a former Wilmington cop and sponsor of the legislation, contended it would help curb gun violence and that cities such as Baltimore and Chicago have similar registries already in effect.

The Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a letter to the Wilmington City Council last month that gun offender registries don’t reduce crime, lead to unnecessary incarceration, and can give police unconstitutional authority. They argued those on such public registries could be barred from employment, leaving them no option than to return to crime.

“With no privacy protections built into the registry ordinance and some people contemplating publishing the list, there is a reasonable likelihood that people added to the list will find it even harder to land a job,” said the letter.

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.