HB 451 – Raising the Legal Long Gun Purchase Age to 21.

House Bill 451, which would raise the legal purchasing age for long guns from 18 to 21, is being heard in the House Administration Committee as we speak.

Federal law requires a buyer to be at least 21 years old for all handgun purchases, but only 18 years old for long guns (including rifles and shotguns). State law mirrors those federal requirements. House Bill 451, sponsored by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, would increase to 21 the age of a person to whom another person can sell or transfer a semi-automatic firearm or ammunition for a firearm.

According to the Giffords Law Center, six other states require a person to be 21 to purchase a long gun. The others, including Delaware, follow the federal requirement of 18 years of age. In the wake of the 2018 Parkland shooting, national chains Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm in their stores to 21 years old.

HB 451 would allow limited exceptions for shotguns and muzzle-loading rifles and related ammunition. Active military members, law enforcement officers, and those who have a concealed-carry license who are 18 years or older also would be exempted.

If HB 451 is released from committee, it will be heard on the House floor on Thursday, June 9. The Senate will consider HB 451 promptly following House passage.

House Bill 451 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Schwartzkopf, Longhurst, Mitchell. Baumbach, Bolden, Heffernan, Bentz, Chukwuocha, Cooke, Freel, Griffith, K.Johnson, Kowalko, Matthews, Minor-Brown, Morrison, Osienski, K.Williams
Sokola, Townsend, Lockman, Gay, S.McBride, Paradee, Sturgeon
Current Status: House Administration 6/2/22

“Last week, an 18-year-old legally purchased a military-style semi-automatic rifle and used it days later to murder 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Ten days earlier, an 18-year-old used a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle to kill 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. The incidents have reignited discussions across the nation about gun safety and calls for legislative action to prevent future tragedies, and we are answering that call,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell. “Taken together, these bills will have a significant and meaningful impact in combating gun violence and preventing future tragedies from happening in Delaware. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it and try to prevent it from happening here. We are committed to passing strong firearm legislation that will make our communities safer.”

“Delaware must question what kinds of deadly weapons we allow to be sold, and to whom, in our state. To that end, we applaud the General Assembly for filing both a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and a bill raising the minimum age for purchase,” said Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence Executive Director Traci Murphy. “It is a tragic fact that perpetrators of school shootings tend to be young, current or former students, and according to the Giffords Law Center, 18-to-20-year-olds account for 4% of the U.S. population but 17% of known homicide offenders. Advocates for gun violence prevention have done critical work in recent years, and this is exactly what we had in mind – two chambers coming together to pass strong, meaningful policies that will save lives in Delaware, and protect our children and communities from the trauma of gun violence.”

“Guns are getting into the hands of people who choose to walk into schools and kill multiple children and educators. The latest tragedy, at Robb Elementary, yet again underscores the need for evidence based, commonsense gun safety laws that keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those too immature to purchase and use them responsibly” said Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram. “We owe it to our students and educators to focus on legislation that will help keep our schools and communities safe and welcoming places.”

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