STUDENT AFFAIRS EDITOR & SENIOR REPORTER
House Bill 302 (HB 302), also known as the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, was signed into law by Gov. John Carney on the lawn at the Biden Institute on Monday. The bill was named after former Vice President Joe Biden’s late son, Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, who previously introduced similar legislation in 2013.
As directly stated in the legislation, the bill “permits a mental health service provider, institution, agency, or hospital to disclose confidential communications to law enforcement if the mental health service provider, institution, agency, or hospital concludes that the patient is dangerous to self or dangerous to others.” Those individuals deemed dangerous could then have their guns seized by law enforcement.
A similar bill, spearheaded by then-Attorney General Beau Biden and Rep. Michael Barbieri, failed in the Delaware state Senate in 2013.
According to Joe Biden, after the bill’s failure in 2013, Beau Biden said, “we will not give this up. We will get this done.”
In his remarks, Rep. David Bentz, the lead sponsor on HB 302, said that he felt that the time was right to push to “get the bill done.” He said that it was just a matter of someone taking the initiative and getting the right people on board to support the bill’s passage.
The bill ultimately received bipartisan support in the Delaware legislature. It passed both chambers with all present voting in favor. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had many concerns with a provision that would allow the justice of the peace to bar a person from residing in the home with a person who has guns.
“This is another example of the Delaware way where Democrats and Republicans work together,” Carney said. “It’s been a long tradition. This is a very contentious issue, so the idea that this passed unanimously in the House and the Senate talks to that bipartisanship and the willingness on both sides to get over whatever hurdles that might happen.”
While the bill was still in committee, the ACLU released a statement in opposition to HB 302. “House Substitute No. 1 for House Bill 302, however, raises unnecessary safety issues and some of its provisions are plainly unconstitutional. We ask the committee not to release the bill for consideration by the full House of Representatives until those problems have been addressed.”
Joe Biden voiced his disagreement with the ACLU’s statement.
“I think you’re wrong on this piece of legislation,” Joe Biden said with regard to the statement. “I think there are many due process safeguards in there.”
Carney said that he and his staff decided on signing the bill at the Biden Institute because of the significance to the Biden family, and what Beau Biden accomplished for the state.
“This is a historic day for the University of Delaware, the newly formed Biden Institute, our state and the Biden family,” University President Dennis Assanis said. “For us, having this event on our premises, on the campus is huge.”
Carney and Bentz said that there is more gun control legislation coming through the pipeline.
“There are several pieces, right now, still under consideration,” Bentz said. “We have an assault weapons bill out there, there’s legislation similar to this bill but it involves utilizing family members as opposed to mental health professionals to intervene, and there’s a bill about extended magazines out there. They’re all more likely to be more controversial.”