Delaware lawmakers pass bump stock ban in latest move on gun control

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Delaware lawmakers recently approved a bump stock ban, adding to the state’s position as a key leader on gun reform laws.

The Delaware House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill banning bump stocks and trigger cranks, and another enacting tougher penalties for gun “straw” purchases.

The bills will next head to the state Senate, and are expected to be signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Carney.

Bump stocks have caught the attention of lawmakers and the public following several mass shootings. They’re used to mimic the firing speed of automatic firearms and can fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

If the Delaware bump stock ban is signed into law, it would also outlaw trigger cranks. These devices, also known as “gat cranks,” are capable of hitting the trigger three times per rotation, thus mimicking a fully automatic weapon.

Once the law is passed, owners of bump stocks and trigger cranks will have 120 days to relinquish these devices to the police. Purchasing, selling, or possessing these devices will be a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Opponents of the law question the constitutionality of government seizing private property without compensation. They are also concerned that it would turn citizens who purchased bump stocks or trigger cranks legally into felons.

“If this bill had as a first offense a misdemeanor, I think that would be great,” said House Minority Leader Daniel Short (R-Seaford). Short suggested a buyback program for those who legally purchased the items.

The legality of bump stocks are mostly determined by state laws. Seven states and D.C. have assault weapons bans that could likely be interpreted to outlaw bump stocks, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Delaware House also passed a bill increasing penalties for “straw” purchases of firearms, when an individual buys a firearm for someone who cannot legally own a firearm.

Under current law, a first offense is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. If the bill is signed into law, the first offense would be a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Subsequent offenses would be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“It’s a feel-good measure that does absolutely nothing to actually reduce crime,” said Jeff Hague, the president of a Delaware NRA affiliate.

How effective the new law would be is debatable, as only three individuals have been convicted of straw purchases since 2013.