Dover, DE – A one-year pilot program giving state, local and county police departments the ability to run what are popularly known as gun buyback programs cleared the Senate Thursday.
“I’m pleased that I received such strong support for this bill,” said Sen. Robert I. Marshall, D-Wilmington West, the measure’s sponsor. “We all recognize the increased gun violence on our streets and that families are suffering and this is an attempt to get unwanted, illegal guns off our streets.”
The bill, which cleared the Senate on a 14-7 vote, got a boost earlier this week when the Joint Finance Committee opted to earmark $100,000 for a one-year pilot program. That, Marshall says, should help its chances in the House.
“I’m confident,” he said. “The Joint Finance Committee supported the $100,000 appropriation and I’m confident that that vote will lead to consideration and support in the House.”
While participation in the program would be optional, its overall rules and framework will be put in place by the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, a move Marshall says is important because it ensures uniform standards. In buyback programs, people are either given cash or gift certificates based on the value of a gun. Under the bill, participating police departments would get to determine a gun’s buyback value.
Gun buyback programs have been in operation around the country in big cities, such as Philadelphia, since the mid-1990s. A buyback effort last year in Chester, Pa., resulted in almost 300 guns being taken off the street.
Pastor Derrick Johnson of Wilmington’s Joshua Harvest Church who’s been involved in buyback programs in Philadelphia and Dayton, Ohio, and said he thinks Marshall’s proposal is the best he’s seen.
“The senator has taken into consideration issues like going back and forth to a drop off. There are immunities for citizens and it protects gun owner’s rights,” he said. “I’m proud of the Delaware Legislature and I’m proud of the debate because it was fair. But overall, I’m glad the overwhelming message I heard from senators was that, if it saves one life, it’s well worth $100,000 to them.”
Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, said she hopes the program is effective.
“Wilmington has experienced an unprecedented amount of shootings and deaths. This gives us a tool we can use to get guns off the streets,” she said. “We need to do anything and everything we can to eliminate the opportunity for someone to be killed.”