DOVER, Del. - Debate on expanding background checks for gun sales took center stage in Dover Wednesday afternoon, but that debate didn't last nearly as long as many people wanted.
The proposal went before the House Judiciary Committee. It was the first of many hearings to come on gun control. And it could be seen as setting the tone for all of the discussions on all the proposals to follow. If that is the case, then the tone at Legislative Hall is going to be a contentious one.
So many people showed up for the hearing it had to be moved from a small room into the house chamber itself. After 30 minutes of discussion, lawmakers took public comment.
"Although this legislation as introduced is well-intentioned," said Rick Armitage. "We don't believe it will get to the crux of the problem - that criminals will obey the new law and it will actually make the state of Delaware safer."
"We find ourselves here today having to speak against this bill," Jeff Hauge said. "Not only because it will not solve the problem, but because it is also lacking in many ways."
"I've read the bill," said Mark Hester, a former Dover police officer. "Based on my experience as a law enforcement officer. It's not going to stop criminals dealing illegal guns to other criminals."
The plan requires background checks of all private gun sales, except in specific cases. That list includes the sale or transfer of a gun within a family and the sale of antique or replica firearms.
Eight people spoke against part or all of the bill. Only one person spoke in favor. She pointed out polls have shown broad national support for more background checks.
"80 to 90 percent of Americans support criminal checks in all cases," said Emily Knearl. "We need it in Delaware."
After nine speakers attention turned to the clock. The full house was about to go into session. So time was running out on the hearing, and more than 30 people still wanted to speak.
Committee chair Rep. Rebecca Walker, D-Middletown, tried to continue the hearing in a different, smaller room. But Rep. Dave Wilson, R-Bridgeville, worried that wouldn't give people a fair chance to be heard.
"We've got people who came to Dover for a hearing, we're rushing them into something of about 13 minutes by my watch. It's a very serious situation here. I motion that we table it."
That suggestion met with the approval from the audience. It also had enough support from representatives to move ahead.
The continuation of the hearing has been scheduled for March 20 at 2:30 p.m., again in the House chamber.
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:38 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:38:16 GMT
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