Delaware Governor Signs 'Permit-to-Purchase' Bill, Gun Owners Respond With Lawsuit

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Delaware took a big step backward on Thursday when Gov. Jay Carney signed a "permit-to-purchase" bill into law that will require would-be gun buyers to get a permission slip from their local sheriff's office or police department before they can exercise their right to keep and bear arms. 


Under the terms of the new law, anyone who wants to buy a gun will have to provide proof of training within the past five years, including shooting at least 100 rounds at a range. They'll also have to renew that training every five years, while the permit-to-purchase is only valid for two years. There's no cost for the permit itself, but would-be gun owners will have to fork over cash for fingerprinting and for the mandated training. 

That's bad enough, but the law also sets up a gun registry, as well as a handy list of gun owners for the state to keep tabs on. 

During his signing ceremony, Carney made the intention behind the bill absolutely clear:

"It's beyond my comprehension somebody could pick up a gun and shoot somebody with it, but it happens — oftentimes for no apparent reason," said Carney, who was flanked by lawmakers who sponsored the bill, gun violence survivors and gun safety advocates. "It's sad, but if you can prevent them from picking up a gun in the first place then we've got a chance."

It's not about training. It's not about safety. It's about stopping people from exercising their Second Amendment rights by making it so burdensome and intrusive that folks will decide it's not worth the hassle. This new law will have no impact on criminals, who aren't lawfully carrying to begin with. It's those Delaware residents who are trying to stay on the right side of the law who'll be subjected to these new infringements. 


The one bit of good news to report is that the new law is already facing a legal challenge. 

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by five plaintiffs including Delaware attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, the Delaware State Sportsmen's Association Inc. and the Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club, challenges the constitutionality of the new law and is focused on "vindicating fundamental civil rights being trampled on by overbearing legislation that defies controlling legal authority."

In a statement, the DSSA pointed out the law "intentionally delays citizens at risk from exercising their right to keep and bear arms for defense of self, family, home and business", adding that victims of domestic violence are "especially harmed by this legislation as are others whose well-being has been threatened by would-be violent offenders." 

If anything, that's an understatement. I've searched the text of the law and haven't been able to find any provision requiring the State Bureau of Investigation to issue a permit within a required amount of time. It appears the agency can take as long as it wants before issuing or denying a permit, though there's a pretty tight timeline for applicants to appeal if they're denied. 

A three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has already tossed out Maryland's permit-to-purchase law, in part because the 30-day waiting period imposed too much of a burden on would-be gun owners. Delaware's law is equally problematic from a constitutional standpoint, and though Delaware AG Kathy Jennings says she's prepared to defend the law in court, there's a very good chance that the law will be enjoined before it takes effect 18 months from now. 


In fact, I'd say if the plaintiffs get a judge who'll apply the "text, history, and tradition" test laid out in Bruen instead of looking for a way to get around the test, there's really no choice but to grant an injunction and ultimately find that the law squarely infringes on our right to keep and bear arms.

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