Democratic lawmakers in Delaware are trying to push a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons to the Senate floor for a vote, even though the measure failed in committee.
The proposed ban failed to clear a committee last week amid opposition from gun-rights advocates, but Senate President Pro Tem David McBride said Thursday he will put the bill, which he supports, first on Tuesday's agenda. Absent a change in the committee's decision, which is unlikely, a majority of the Democratic-led Senate would have to vote to suspend the rules to consider the measure.
The move comes after Democratic Gov. John Carney held a news conference Wednesday with the primary bill sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bryan Townsend of Newark, and a small group of gun control advocates.
"There is a great deal of public interest in this legislation, on all sides," McBride told fellow lawmakers, reading from a statement. "It is every senator's prerogative to support or oppose any bill. But when an issue like this garners such an extraordinary level of interest and passion, every senator should have the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to have their position on the record."
"All of us, supporters and skeptics alike, would be remiss not to allow this debate to reach the full Senate or to receive an up-or-down vote," McBride added.
McBride's statement left Republican Sen. Colin Bonini wondering if Senate procedures will be dictated in the future by media coverage.
"If any issue gets enough press coverage, are we going to simply waive the responsibilities of the committee process?" asked the Dover Republican.
Carney's proposed ban on what he calls military-style assault weapons failed to clear the Judicial and Community Affairs Committee after a hearing before a standing-room-only crowd in the Senate chamber, where opponents outnumbered supporters by about 7-to-1.
Carney called for the ban after a February shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.
The bill identifies dozens of "assault long guns" and "assault pistols" that would be banned. The ban would extend to "copycat" weapons, including any centerfire rifle that has both a detachable magazine and a folding stock, and any pistol or centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
The legislation would prohibit the sale and transfer of such firearms, as well as transportation across state lines into Delaware.
It would not ban possession of weapons purchased legally before the legislation's effective date, but it would impose restrictions on where they could be possessed and transported. It would not apply to armored car guards, police, members of the military, or government officials on official business. It also would allow retired police officers to have weapons sold or transferred to them by their law-enforcement agencies on retirement, or which they purchased or obtained for official use before retirement.
Opponents argue the measure would do nothing to prevent mass shootings and would violate Delaware's constitution, which was amended in 1987 to enshrine an individual's right to carry guns for self-defense.
Meanwhile, Carney signed a bill Thursday banning bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar devices that increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic firearms. A first offense of possessing a bump stock will be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. Buying or selling a bump stock will be a felony.