Gun rights groups file lawsuit to halt new law in Delaware
Gun rights groups and sports clubs in Delaware have filed a lawsuit against the Carney Administration arguing a new law violates the constitution.
Legislation recently signed into law by Governor Carney that bans assault-style weapons in the State of Delaware is now being challenged legally, as gun rights groups Wednesday filed a lawsuit in an effort to halt the new measure which they feel violates their constitutional right to bear arms.
The new law, House Bill 450, dubbed the Delaware Lethal Firearms Safety Act of 2022, bans a long list of rifles, shotguns, and pistols. The act prohibits the manufacture, sale, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, receipt, possession, or transport of certain assault-style weapons in Delaware, subject to certain exceptions. One exception is that the Act does not prohibit the possession and transport of firearms that were lawfully possessed or purchased before the bill became law.
Under the new law, it directs the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to develop a procedure for issuance of a voluntary certificate of possession to show lawful possession of the weapons that were legally owned before the bill was signed into law. A measure that has outraged gun rights lobbyists across the First State, including the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association (DSSA), one of several groups that has filed the joint lawsuit.
“There’s over 20 million of these types of firearms in circulation, there’s several billions rounds of ammunition, and if law abiding citizens were a problem, you’d know it,” explained DSSA President Jeff Hague. “There’s several different issues that we feel this law violates in the course of a person’s rights and that’s why we have filed a lawsuit to try to right this wrong.”
The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. DSSA was joined in this action by the Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club, The Delaware Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the Delaware Rifle and Pistol Club, and several individual members of those organizations.
“We hope that the judge will decide that based on the evidence that we present that the bill is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable, and essentially throws it out much like what happened in New York State,” Hague said emphatically. “We believe, that first of all, it violates Delaware’s rights to keep and bear arms under our bill of rights which is Article 1, Section 20 of the constitution, and also the 2nd Amendment of the federal constitution.”
Specifically, the lawsuit calls for the new law to be declared violative of not only the individual citizen’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms under the both the State of Delaware and United States constitutions, but numerous other constitutional provisions as well, including the Commerce Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the “takings” clauses of both the Delaware and United States Constitutions, according to the groups who filed the lawsuit.
Groups such as DSSA, who have long opposed gun reform legislation like House Bill 450, continue to argue that the gun violence issue plaguing the nation will not be solved through laws that prohibit the ownership of firearms.
“If you wanna solve the violent crime problem, there’s ways of doing it without interfering with the rights of law abiding citizens who enjoy their constitutional rights,” Hague stated. “Firearms are not the only weapons means that violent crimes are committed with, you can have cars, you can have golf clubs, hammers, fists, knives, all sorts of things, you have to look at the person wielding the weapon, it’s not the object.”
House Bill 450 was passed along with several other bills on the final day of session in the Delaware General Assembly. The bill was part of a legislative package on gun reform and safety that was brought praised by Democratic lawmakers and state officials, such as Governor John Carney who was quick to sign the bill into law following its passage.
“We have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like we’ve seen around the county from happening here in Delaware. We are not waiting to do what’s right – to take steps that will make our state safer” Governor Carney said as he signed the bills into law. “This historic gun safety legislation would not have been possible without the dedication of advocates who demanded action across our state. I’d like to thank members of the General Assembly for working to pass these bills before the end of session.”
The bills were praised and advocated for strongly by gun reform groups such as Moms Demand Action, who were on hand for their signing and praised the passage of the legislation.
“One thing is clear: Delaware has been made safer today with the signing of these bills,” said Mara Gorman, a volunteer with the Delaware chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Our leaders in Delaware are heeding the call to act on our gun violence crisis. This public safety package will keep guns out of the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them, prohibit devices that make guns more deadly, and bring accountability to an industry that has helped prop up this gun violence crisis. We thank Governor Carney for taking action and signing these bills.”
The same groups who brought forth this lawsuit have also vowed to legally challenge other bills that were recently signed into law as part of the gun safety package, including measures that ban certain magazine capacities and prohibit adults under the age of 21 from purchasing firearms in Delaware.
47 ABC News reached out to the Governor’s Office who refused to comment on the pending litigation.
The case will be considered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. An official court date has not yet been announced.