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Rewrite of Delaware gun magazine bill focuses on criminals

June 24, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state House on Thursday approved an amendment overhauling a Senate gun-control measure that would have outlawed virtually all magazines sold with modern semiautomatic firearms.

The amendment was prompted by concerns raised about the constitutionality and feasibility of the Senate bill, which banned magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds and required existing owners of such magazines to surrender them to the state.

The amendment guts the entire Senate bill, allowing the sale and possession of magazines that are commonly included as accessories with new firearms while taking aim at after-market magazines.

The House measure, approved on a 24-16 vote and sent to the Senate, criminalizes the possession while committing a felony of an after-market magazine that increases the designed capacity of a firearm’s standard magazine. A person accused of possessing a prohibited after-market magazine while committing a felony would be subject to a separate felony charge punishable by two to 25 years in prison.

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The legislation also outlaws, except in certain circumstances, the sale or transfer of a handgun magazine that exceeds 20 rounds or a rifle magazine holding more than 30 rounds. It does not, however, prohibit the possession of after-market magazines exceeding those capacities by people who already own them.

“They will be grandfathered.... You’re still allowed to use it lawfully,” said Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, author of the House amendment and chief House sponsor of the original Senate bill.

Describing the crafting of the legislation as a “learning experience,” Chukwuocha, a Wilmington Democrat, noted that the Senate bill’s definition of a “large capacity magazine” would have outlawed basically every magazine for semiautomatic firearms.

“That wasn’t the intention,” he said, also acknowledging that he believed the original bill affected the constitutional rights of gun owners.

“We’re targeting individuals who are committing crimes with these magazines, not lawful individuals,” explained Chukwuocha, who described the revised legislation as “a solid bill.”

“It’s one that respects the Second Amendment rights, as well as the Delaware constitutional rights, of gun owners,” he said.

Despite the revisions, most House Republicans voted against the measure, as did a handful of Democrats.