Delaware gun control laws face legal challenge

Delaware gun control laws face legal challenge
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Gun control groups may have had difficulty passing anti-Second Amendment measures at the federal level, but in the states, it was a different matter entirely. They’ve had significant success all over the place.


One such state is Delaware, which passed a number of gun control measures earlier this year.

Now, three of those laws are facing legal challenge following the Bruen decision.

Barely four months after [Gov. John] Carney signed six bills, lawsuits have been filed against three of them.

The latest came this week, when the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association and allies filed suit in Delaware Chancery Court against the measure that — building on a 1968 federal ban pertaining to handguns to anyone under 21 — also prohibits young people from buying or possessing rifles and most other firearms, with the general exception of shotguns for hunting.

Earlier this fall, the groups and individual hunters filed suit in U.S. District Court in Wilmington over two other measures: one that banned AR-15 rifles and other assault-style weapons, and another that banned high-capacity magazines, limiting clips to 17 rounds. The state must respond to the allegations this month.

The new suit, filed Tuesday, argues that the law banning anyone under 21 from having almost all firearms was passed “in defiance” of both the U.S. Supreme Court and Delaware Supreme Court, which “have recognized that the fundamental right to self-defense includes the right to keep and bear firearms both inside and outside the home.’’

The law “flouts the fundamental civil rights of Delawareans, particularly those 18 years-old through 20 years-old, by making them criminals — felons — for exercising one of their most exalted rights,” the lawsuit asserts.


Of course, the article goes on to quote an anti-gun activist who says she’s confident these measures will survive the challenge, but I think she’s deluding herself.

First, the ban on modern sporting rifles flies in the face of repeated rulings by the Supreme Court. Weapons “in common use” cannot lawfully be banned, and considering there are nearly 25 million AR-15s in civilian hands, to say nothing of AK-pattern or other so-called assault rifles, one would be incredibly hard-pressed to successfully argue these aren’t in common use.

Then there’s the magazine capacity limit.

Now, I have to give Delaware credit here. Their limit is actually one that minimizes the impact on handguns–obviously, not entirely, but it still exempts a lot of pistol magazines–while primarily focusing on the magazines for “assault weapons.”

The problem here, though, is that it’s blatantly unconstitutional.

The Bruen decision set a test for the constitutionality of any gun control law. One has to look at the text and history and find an existing law from around the time of the Second Amendment’s signing and, if no similar law exists, the new measure is unconstitutional.

Find me a single law restricting how many rounds your weapon can carry from the 1700s. I dare you.

The truth is, no such measure existed, so a magazine capacity limit is unlikely to survive a challenge.

Then there’s the age limit, the latest measure being challenged.


For many, this is simple. They argue that the brain isn’t fully developed yet and, as such, people under the age of 21 are prone to irrationality.

Considering how many vote for anti-gun candidates, I can believe it.

However, if we’re going to restrict these people from one right, why aren’t we talking about restricting them from all rights? If they’re too irrational to own a gun, then aren’t they also too irrational to help elect leaders?

But as it stands, we treat 18-year-olds as if they’re legal adults. Mostly, it’s because they are.

Restricting them from having most firearms is restricting them from defending themselves. As it noted in the above-linked piece, at 18 they can buy a house and have a family, but laws like this make it nearly impossible for them to protect that family.

I honestly don’t see this one surviving challenge, either.

Of course, this all presumes these challenges go as high as possible if need be. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear some of these cases, then all bets are off, but based on what we’ve seen of late, I find it difficult to believe these laws survive even then.

Delaware’s gun laws aren’t likely to last, and that’s good news for Delaware.

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