House Amends Large Capacity Magazine Ban [Updated with Vote]

So Senate Bill 6 has run into a speed bump, or a brick wall. We shall see. Essentially the problem comes down to the alleged notion that the legal definition of large capacity magazines in the version of Senate Bill 6 that passed the Senate would ban all magazines for handguns and long guns, whether they are large capacity or not, and as such, the bill would likely not pass the House.

Therefore, the bill’s House Sponsor, Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha has filed an Amendment to address that alleged problem. The amendment replaces the original language with new definitions of “large-capacity magazine” and targets after-market magazines that exceed the designed capacity of the magazines that are included with firearms as standard from the manufacturer.

The definition included in the original version of SB 6, which the Senate passed in April, stated that a large-capacity magazine “includes an ammunition feeding device with a removable floor plate or end plate, if the device can readily be extended to accept more than 17 rounds of ammunition.”

However, that description applies to nearly all magazines sold with firearms from the manufacturer, which Rep. Chukwuocha noted would mean that SB 6 as originally constructed would almost universally outlaw standard magazines, an obvious conflict with the intent and purpose of the bill.

Under the amendment, a person in possession of a large-capacity magazine during the commission of a felony would be charged with a class B felony, which carries a prison sentence of two to 25 years. Under that section, “large-capacity magazine” would be defined as “an after-market magazine which increases the designed capacity of the standard magazine manufactured and sold by the manufacturer of the firearm in which it is used.”

The amendment also would establish a crime of selling, purchasing, receiving, or transferring a large-capacity magazine, and would make the offense a class E felony. The original bill carries a penalty of a class B misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for each subsequent offense. For this offense, “large-capacity magazine” would be defined as “any magazine that exceeds 20 rounds of ammunition for a handgun and 30 rounds for a long gun,” which are standard capacity sizes for those respective firearm magazines from the manufacturer.

My thoughts on this is that this is rushed and that is no accident. The plan is to jam House members and the Senate with this Amendment. And I don’t like that. I say we need to delay this vote and consider it over the break and tackle it in January. If a vote is forced today, vote no.

I am told the Amendment likely already has 7 no votes among the Democrats and it is unlikely any Republican votes for it. So that takes us down to 19 votes.

UPDATE: Well, the Amendment passed by a nefarious voice vote. The bill as amended then passed by a vote of 24-16-1 in one of the strangest vote breakdowns you will ever see. Check it out below. You have progressives Paul Baumbach and Eric Morrison voting no along with moderate Andria Bennett, Bill Bush and Bill Carson, plus 11 Republicans. Then you have Republicans Kevin Hensley, Michael Smith and Mike Ramone voting yes with the rest of the Democrats, which include such progressives as John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Larry Lambert and Madinah Wilson-Anton.

The amended bill now goes to the House and you have to wonder what happens there. If I were Dave Sokola, I would sit on it for a while, and perhaps introduce a whole new bill, or a whole new bill in the form of a new Senate Amendment, play ping pong with the House in the new year.

Senate Bill 6 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Gay, Hansen, S.McBride, Pinkney, PooreSenate Passed 13-8. Brown Gay Hansen Lockman Mantzavinos Paradee Pinkney Poore S.McBride Sokola Sturgeon Townsend WalshBonini Ennis Hocker Lawson Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson Wilson
Chukwuocha, Bentz, Heffernan, Kowalko, Lynn, Minor-Brown, MorrisonHouse Amended and Passed 24-16-1. Bentz Bolden Brady Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey Walker Griffith Heffernan Hensley K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews M.Smith Minor-Brown Mitchell Osienski Ramone S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-AntonBaumbach Bennett Briggs King Bush Carson Collins D.Short Dukes (Absent) Gray Morris Morrison Postles Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick
Current Status — Sent to the Senate for its reconsideration.

“When we were confronted with that issue, we had to begin looking at a definition that would address the root issue we are trying to solve. In my community, that problem is extended magazines that allow someone to fire countless bullets without having to reload,” said Rep. Chukwuocha. “Those after-market magazines – the so-called ‘banana clips,’ drums and other devices that hold dozens of rounds – are the contraptions we have to get off our streets and stop selling in Delaware. This amendment provides a clear, realistic and critical step forward in addressing that root problem by creating an enforceable law that can actually achieve its stated goals.”

“Strongly increasing the penalties for those who commit crimes using large-capacity magazines is a goal we all share,” said Rep. Sean Matthews. “This amendment advances that goal and improves public safety.”

“Since I was elected in 2012, we have considered and passed several bills strengthening our firearm laws and protecting residents from gun violence. Whether it’s closing the Charleston Loophole, passing red flag laws or toughening background checks, I’m proud to have voted for every one of these bills and will continue to support all efforts to make our communities safer,” said Rep. Kim Williams. “However, I can’t vote for a bill that would make nearly every gun owner in the state – including myself – a criminal. This amendment gets to the heart of the matter and will address these after-market large-capacity magazines.”

All three sponsors of the Amendment, Reps. Chuckwuocha, Matthews and Williams, have all received lifetime “F” ratings from the Delaware affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

The amendment also would eliminate a proposed mandatory relinquishment and buyback program outlined in SB 6, which has raised constitutionality questions. However, a separate bill offering a voluntary program may be introduced in January.

SB 6 is scheduled for a House floor vote this afternoon. This post will be updated with the votes when that occurs. If it passes with a House amendment, SB 6 would need to be sent back to the Senate so that they can pass the amended bill.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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