NEWARK, Del. (AP)- Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms could help reduce gun violence in Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell and other state officials said Wednesday in unveiling the first of several gun-control bills being pushed by the administration in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.
The bill requires a person to report to police within 48 hours of discovering that a firearm is lost or stolen. A first offense for failing to report would be a misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500. Subsequent offenses would be felonies.
Officials said the measure would help prevent lost and stolen firearms from winding up in the hands of criminals prohibited from possessing them and help reduce straw purchases, in which people buy guns for sale or transfer to others who aren't supposed to have them.
Markell noted that a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms was arrested last week on gun and drug charges in Wilmington. Authorities said he had an AK-47 assault type rifle that was stolen in Pennsylvania and two handguns that were stolen in Maryland.
Biden said far too many criminals prohibited from having guns are able to get them from friends or relatives, theft, or in the criminal marketplace, where cash, drugs and stolen or illegally purchased guns are all forms of currency.
People who illegally make straw purchases for others often escape prosecution by claiming that the straw-purchased gun was lost or stolen, he added.
"They wreak havoc on our society," Biden said, adding that the bill presented Wednesday would aid in the prosecution of straw purchasers who don't report supposedly lost or stolen guns that wind up in the hands of criminals.
"It's going to increase my ability to go after the straw purchaser," he said.
Biden admitted that determining whether a person truthfully reports that a gun is missing or stolen within 48 hours, rather than waiting weeks or months before reporting the loss or theft, will require investigative work by police.
"We're going to have to work that out," he said.
The measure discussed Wednesday was the first draft bill to be released as part of a package of gun-control proposals announced last month.
Administration officials had said the bills would be introduced last month before the legislature recessed for budget committee hearings but now say the bills will be unveiled in the coming weeks before lawmakers return to Dover on March 12.
The most controversial of the proposals is a ban on the sale of military-style, assault-type weapons like the one used in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut.
Officials also proposed a ban on large-capacity ammunition clips holding more than five rounds for rifles and shotguns and 10 rounds for handguns, but Lt. Gov. Matt Denn said that, in response to talks with gun owners, that proposal is being changed to allow 10-round clips for rifles.
Officials also proposed a ban on guns within 1,000 feet of schools, but they indicated Wednesday that the distance will be reduced to 300 feet, similar to the drug-free perimeters around schools.
Markell also is pushing for background checks for private gun sales in Delaware, revisiting a measure he failed to persuade lawmakers to pass two years ago.
Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Lewis Schiliro said he hopes that people on both sides of the gun-control debate can agree on common-sense measures that balance the constitutional right to own firearms with efforts to reduce gun violence and save lives.
"It is our hope that reasoned argument will produce sensible results.... The stakes are too high not to," he said.
Saturday, May 18 2013 10:19 AM EDT2013-05-18 14:19:20 GMT
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