Posted: April 12, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Somebody eventually had to run out some legislation that a conservative could love, some legislation that actually could pass.

Beau Biden did it.

Yes, Beau Biden. Yes, he is a Democrat. Yes, he shares the name with his father-the-vice-president that conservatives love to hate. Even so, he is also the attorney general, and there has yet to be an attorney general who is soft on crime.

So amid the flowering of the most liberal legislative agenda to come to the Delaware General Assembly since the 1960s, amid the bills on repealing the death penalty, legalizing gay marriage, fortifying gun laws, raising taxes and hiking the minimum wage, Biden came out with some legislation of his own.

It was a package of gun bills, but these were not anything the National Rifle Association would think of as gun-owner-baiting, Second-Amendment-gutting bills.

These bills were meant to put away the armed lowlifes -- the violent felons caught with deadly weapons, juveniles with guns, habitual offenders and people unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm -- with lock-them-up-and-lose-the-key sentences.

Like any legislator could vote against that.

Biden rolled out the bills Monday at a press conference in his office in Wilmington alongside police officers, prosecutors and legislators.

"There are too many people on the streets of the city in Wilmington and across the state carrying guns that do violent things in our communities, and we need to take action," Biden said.

One of the bills is even sponsored by a Republican. It is Ruth Briggs King, a representative who participated by a video feed from Georgetown in her district. The other sponsors are Bruce Ennis, a Democratic senator who used to be a state trooper, and Larry Mitchell, a Democratic representative who used to be a New Castle County police officer.

Passing these bills should be as easy as ABC, as in the Attorney general, Bipartisan sponsorship and Cops. Together they are a law-and-order triangle that is almost always an irresistible force in the corridors of Legislative Hall in Dover.

This legislation is not the only example of Biden straying from the orthodoxy. He is also the most prominent political figure fighting against the repeal of the death penalty. It slipped through the Senate by 11-10 but is in danger of getting stuck in committee in the House of Representatives.

Biden's gun bills provided a point-counterpoint to the other major legislative rollout of the week.

It was the gay marriage bill, presented with fanfare and flourishes Friday to a crowd standing in the expanse between the state and city/county buildings in Wilmington. Someone waved a Delaware state flag, except the customary blue background was replaced by the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement.

The area where everyone was gathered is called Freedom Plaza, where there is a sculpture in remembrance of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust because they were different, and where there is a statue of Louis Redding, the famed civil rights lawyer whose people endured discrimination because they were different, and where gay Delawareans now came because they are tantalizingly within reach of being treated not as different, but the same.

"There's no greater reason to run for office than to work for equality and civil rights for all people," Patti Blevins, the Senate's Democratic president pro tem, told the gathering.

"Delawareans believe that all people should be treated fairly. When they see that some loving and committed couple are allowed to marry and some aren't, they know that isn't right, and it isn't who we are as Delawareans."

The gay marriage legislation, House Bill 75, is expected to move quickly through the House, but the Senate is still an open question. The prime sponsor is Melanie George Smith, a Democratic representative, but the crowd gave its loudest applause to Mike Ramone, a representative who is the lone Republican among the 23 other sponsors.

The rollout drew the governor, the lieutenant governor, staff members as stand-ins for the congressional delegation, the New Castle County executive, legislators, other elected officials, clergy and members of Equality Delaware, the leading advocates for the bill.

Also the attorney general. Really, Beau Biden can stray only so far.