Since the 1960s and 1970s, it has been illegal to carry a gun onto the ground of state parks or forests in Delaware. But all that changed on Thursday, December 7th, 2017.
Calling the rules unconstitutional, Delaware’s Supreme Court lifted the more than 50-year-old ban.
The court made its decision based on the precedent set by a case involving the Wilmington Housing Authority. That case, in which the rules of the housing authority prevented residents from carrying guns in common areas, was overturned in 2014. In that case, the court ruled that individual agencies do not have the right to set rules that counter state-granted rights.
After the ruling, the two agencies responsible for the rule, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Agriculture, no longer have legal grounds to enforce the bans.
The case was brought forward by a number of citizens interested in protecting their rights and the rights of others. One of the plaintiffs, Jeff Hague, is treasurer for the Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club and president of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association. Hague’s interest was not just for himself, but for members of these organizations and visitors to club functions.
For instance, during club competitions, members faced challenges when looking to camp near these events. “A law-abiding citizen from out of state couldn’t bring his gun or couldn’t camp, so he had to sacrifice one or the other,” Hague said.
Hague was clearly pleased with the decision. “They did the right thing. This reaffirms the constitutional right that Delawareans have … to self-defense and the right to keep and bear arms, not just in hunting and fishing and sporting, but in defense of their family and home.”
The ban, while in place, did allow for exceptions for hunting activities on state lands. But for residents who wanted to carry their legally owned weapons for protection, there were no provisions allowing them to do so.
Delaware has thousands of concealed carry permit holders in the state, despite the rigorous process employed by the state. The ranks of permit holders have swelled in the last few years, with the states seeing a 188 percent increase in permit applications and renewals in 2016 over the previous year.
Both the DNREC and the Department of Agriculture are taking time to review the ruling before responding publicly to the court’s decision. It’s anticipated that the agencies will rewrite the rules in the coming months.