HB 201 would put heavy restrictions on allowing guns in schools.

Senator: Gun-free school zone law is attack on 2nd amendment

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

HB 201 would put heavy restrictions on allowing guns in schools.

HB 201 would put heavy restrictions on allowing guns in schools.

A law that would place restrictions on guns in schools was tabled in the Senate Friday after Republican legislators claimed it was unconstitutional and unfair to law-abiding citizens.

House Bill 201, sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, makes having of a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone as a class E felony, which means the culprit could face up to five years in prison. 

“I don’t understand how this bill keeps the bad guys out,” said Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford. “Ones that have nefarious objectives are going to enter the schools anyway, so how does this do anything?”

The bill cites that as of April 4, 74 people have been killed or injured by guns in schools in 13 separate school shootings across the country this year.

School shootings hit a record high in 2022 with 46 shootings, the bill states, surpassing 2021’s record of 42 shootings. In 2022, 43,450 children experienced a school shooting. 

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, said the bill was yet another attack on the second amendment.

“Law enforcement has a right to stop anyone if they believe there’s about to be a crime committed; they do not have to wait,” he said. “They can intercede and violence does not have to happen for them to take action, so this bill really has a false premise.”

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Only police officers, constables or active-duty military personnel who are acting in an official capacity are allowed to have a gun in the school zone, per the bill.

However, it allows holders of a valid license to carry concealed weapons only if the firearm is in a vehicle. 

Lawson said the bill puts out the idea that a bad actor has free run at a school. 

“There’s no one there to stop them and they’ll have free rein to get to our kids and our teachers with free rein as we advertise this is a gun free zone,” Lawson said. “Look at Sandy Hook. The man drove by the schools that had SROs and went to one where there were no guns, it was a free zone. This is not a good idea.”

There have been several incidents of guns found in Delaware schools in the 2022-2023 school year, which led to many districts re-evaluating their safety policies and even one investing in metal detectors for entryways.

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The bill  also would require a student who possesses a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone to be expelled for at least 90 day. However, it also would give a local school board or charter school board of directors may, on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion. 

Schwarzkopf’s bill would include exemptions to the rule. They include if a gun-holder is on private property not part of school grounds; if the firearm is in a locked container or locked firearms rack that is on or in a motor vehicle; or if a gun-holder is engaged in lawful hunting, firearms instruction or firearm-related sports on public lands not belonging to a school.

The bill was laid on the table.

Later, though, it appeared in the house with an amendment from Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, to create the offense of possession of a firearm in a Safe Recreation Zone while not changing changing the violation of possession of a firearm  as established under the Act.

When it came up in the House, Valerie Longhurst, who knew she was about to be elected speaker of house replacing Schwartzkopf, joked, “This is the last bill of yours I’m running.”

The fate of the bill was the object of curiosity in the House of Representatives, where Schwartzkopf was about to announce he was stepping down from the speaker’s role to spend more time with family.

The Senate also sent bills aiming to prevent child abuse to Gov. John Carney’s desk for his signature.

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