DOVER – Legislation keeping firearms out of the hands of those who present a danger to themselves or others passed the Senate today in a unanimous vote, clearing its final legislative hurdle before reaching Gov. John Carney's desk.
Known as the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, House Substitute 1 for House Bill 302 keeps firearms away from people with propensities of violence through a framework grounded in due process and evidence-based metrics.
Under the legislation, health professionals are required to report to law enforcement anyone they believe presents a danger to themselves or others. If a judge agrees, the person would have to relinquish their firearms.
Prime sponsor Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, called the legislation a thoughtful, common sense approach to gun violence.
“Legislators and advocates across the board agree that it is critical to address mental health and gun safety, and the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act represents a true consensus piece of legislation. It promotes public safety and sensible gun safety policy, while protecting the due process rights of Delawareans. I am so proud to see it pass the Senate and head to the Governor’s desk,” said Rep. Bentz. “We have an obligation to prevent senseless gun violence whenever possible. When a person presents a danger to themselves or others, mental health professionals can help prevent some of these tragedies and save lives. I hope this legislation serves as a model for other states as they grapple with gun safety policies.
Additionally, the bill would prohibit a person committed to a hospital for treatment of a mental condition from possessing or obtaining a firearm. A person charged with a violent crime who is found not guilty by insanity, guilty but mentally ill, or mentally incompetent to stand trial also would not be permitted to obtain a gun.
Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, another sponsor, said the bill is a major step forward on gun violence and on mental health.
“We often think of gun violence as being about homicide, but almost two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides,” said Sen. Henry. “The data tells us that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of gun violence, which makes it all the more urgent for us to dispel with the dangerous, baseless, and stigmatizing myth that people with mental illnesses are dangerous. This is thoughtful legislation that I’m proud to sponsor. Rep. Bentz worked painstakingly to bring together stakeholders from every side of this issue to create good policy that will save lives and that we can all support. I applaud him and I’m glad to see the bill reach the governor’s desk.”
Governor Carney has stated that he plans to sign HS 1 for HB 302. A signing date is forthcoming.