Delaware lawmakers announce 'Beau Biden' gun control act

The state's top Dems, including Gov. John Carney, are supporting the new gun control bill. (Photo: Governor's office)

The state’s top Dems, including Gov. John Carney, are supporting the new gun control bill. (Photo: Governor’s office)

The proposal reboots a bill once floated by former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden to expand mandatory gun surrenders and grow the list of prohibited firearm possessors in the state.

Introduced Tuesday by state Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, House Bill 302 would require health care workers to report to law enforcement anyone they feel is a danger to themselves or others. Police, obligated to investigate, could then petition the court to order the person turn over their guns pending a hearing. Courts could also authorise officers to seize firearms and ammunition under some circumstances.

“This legislation will protect our communities by restricting access to firearms for those who are considered a danger to themselves or others,” said Gov. John Carney in support of the legislation. “It will also ensure our health professionals and law enforcement are working more closely together when it comes to the issue of firearms.”

Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, served as the state’s attorney general from 2007 until his death in 2015 and had proposed a similar version of the measure in 2013, leading Bentz to name HB 302 in his honor. That measure passed the state House easily but was rejected 13 to 6 in the Senate after gun rights advocates voiced concerns about the bill’s due process framework.

In addition to the provision to temporarily take guns from those subject to a court order, under its current language HB 302 would remove the firearms rights of some with a history of mental health treatment as well as those who been found not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty but mentally ill, or mentally incompetent to stand trial.

“The Beau Biden bill achieves a balance between promoting public safety and sensible gun control policy while protecting the due process and Second Amendment rights of Delawareans,” assured Bentz.

The measure has the backing of the state Department of Health and Social Service, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, and gun control groups to include the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence.

The Delaware State Sportsmans’ Association, the state’s NRA affiliate, opposes the bill.

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