Lost or stolen firearms in Delaware must be reported to police within seven days under to a new law signed by Governor Jack Markell (D-Delaware) Wednesday.
Gun owners who fail notify police within a week of discovering a firearm missing are subject to fines for the first two offenses. Further offenses are class G felonies.
Delaware’s Homeland Security secretary Lewis Schiliro, says the law aims to protect police officers and prevent straw purchases, where someone permitted to buy a gun purchases one for someone prohibited from doing so.
“First and foremost it’ll help our police officers that arrive on a burglary scene or on a case of stolen property. They have a right to know that a firearm was involved for their own safety,” said Schiliro. “I think the other thing it would do is help us to identify patterns where people continue to report guns stolen or don’t and help us really identify the straw purchaser.”
Delaware is the eighth state in the nation to require reporting missing firearms.
Markell has been seeking stricter gun regulations since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre six months ago. Bill co-sponsor State Rep. Michael Barbieri (D-Newark) says this measure will help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“The argument we keep on getting is that we’re not going to prevent things like Sandy Hook and I don’t think anyone deludes themselves in believing that that’s what we will do, but what we will do is make it easier for law enforcement to take action on inappropriate behavior such as straw purchases,” said Barbieri.
This is the second of five bills proposed by Markell to become law. Last month, the governor signed a law extending mandatory background checks to most private gun sales.
Markell also proposed banning assault weapons, restricting high-capacity magazines and prohibiting firearms within a thousand feet of a school. He does not expect action on those bills before the Legislature finish its work for the year June 30th, but adds getting this bill and the background checks bill passed represent progress.
“When we presented our bill back in January, the three I talked about were the background checks, the mandatory reporting [of lost and stolen guns] and the high capacity magazine bill. Those were the three I’ve been most interested in,” said Markell. “Getting the background check bill done was huge. That was sort of the ‘big enchilada.’ And now the General Assembly has wanted to turn its attention to a number of other issues.”
Markell did not rule out pursuing his other proposals when the General Assembly returns in January, but also said he “can’t make any predictions now about which exact bills will be taken up in what timeframe.”