HB88 is a bill that sought to better define (so it could actually be enforced) procedures by which dangerous mentally ill persons could be restricted from firearm ownership, but also creates a path to let those restricted demonstrate that they are no longer dangerous and able to manage their gun rights. This is a great bill — one that was worked hard by the House, to ensure that concerns of all sides were reasonably dealt with and it passed the House 40-1. A bipartisan victory by any stretch of the imagination — and it means that the House reached a remarkable consensus on this issue. This bill was sent to the Senate, who voted it down tonite 6 – 13, with 2 not voting. One of the not voting was Bryan Townsend (D-11), which surprised a great many people. Cathy Cloutier voted NO on this, even though she is reported as telling folks she would vote YES. Michael Barbieri is the bill’s primary sponsor, and I am told that he needs to get just one Senator who voted NO to bring it back to the floor.
To say that this defeat is a surprise is an understatement. It’s overwhelming majority in the House should have been an indication to the Senate of just how well this bill had been worked. In addition, the NRA was NEUTRAL on this bill — as good as it gets on a gun measure. How did it get defeated? Ever hear of a group called First State Liberty?
It is run by Eric Boye, who is plenty new here. And I understand that after HB88 passed in the House, a campaign of robocalling began to get people to contact Senators on this issue. As is often the case, the robocall was more about scaring people than actually informing them. This group is toxic enough that even the Delaware State Sportsmans Association has warned its membership about this group — saying that is is a counterfeit organization that is run by persons with their own interests at heart, rather than those of gun owners:
Two of these groups, the National Association for Gun Rights and First State Liberty, are not, I repeat NOT, representative of DSSA or NRA here in Delaware. The leaders of these two groups, Dudley Brown and Eric Boye, have their own personal agendas and do not have the best interests of Delaware’s law-abiding gun owners, hunters, sportsmen & women, and Delaware’s Second Amendment activists at heart. In fact, Mr. Brown, isn’t even a Delaware resident. All they want is your money!
Even more interesting is First State Liberty’s tale of how John Sigler (shooter of pigeons, GOP resigner) helped make sure that the GOP in the House voted for HB88. Why? The folks at First State Liberty allege that Sigler was using a bill to get guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill to enrich the company that he works for, Psychotherapeutic Services. Got that? Sigler hung around long enough to get HB88 through the House so that his company could benefit, but then why would he resign before it got through the Senate? No one with a scheme like the one spun up by First State would actually leave the work undone — letting go all of these potential goodies just when they are in reach?
What is really amazing is that the Senate didn’t just talk to the House to make sure that their concerns were dealt with in this bill. And that the Senate wasn’t just reacting to the usual wingnut conspiracies. Because it sure looks like they did, rather than listening to the local organizations and groups who really do represent Delawareans. Delaware State News has some reaction by Beau Biden:
“This is the Aurora bill,” A.G. Biden said, referencing the July 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora Colo., where James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Holmes had met with mental health professionals prior to the mass shooting and had made homicidal statements, but action had not been taken.
“This is to fill that gap,” A.G. Biden said of individuals who have been voluntarily committed for treatment, but could still potentially purchase a firearm.
Dr. Neil Kaye, a Hockessin psychiatrist tapped by Biden’s office for support, appeared to create some confusion on the Senate floor by saying the gun bill would only apply to those committed to an institution to receive treatment for a mental illness. The bill, in fact, could have been applied to anyone believed to be dangerous by a mental health professional.
As of this writing, I don’t have the final vote tally, but will post when I can get it. But it looks like Senators Townsend and Poore sat this one out
and Senator Peterson actually voted No. (CORRECTION: Senator Peterson voted YES according to the tally posted today.) The entire situation is pretty remarkable, since there’s been an insistence that guns are not the problem, but mental illness is. Yet here is a pretty good bill that narrowly defines how a limited group of those who might be dangerous could be kept away from guns, and we have the Delaware State Senate running away from it.
ADDING — the Vote Tally (thanx Pluribus):