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Delaware Supreme Court rules to end state parks gun ban

Jason Minto
Delaware Supreme Court

The Delaware Supreme Court has overturned a 40-year-old policy banning firearms in state parks.

Under the ban, legal hunters were allowed to have their firearms in designated areas, but guns were  otherwise prohibited in state parks.

But the justices ruled the policy ignores gun owners’ 2nd Amendment rights. The majority of the five justices also agreed state agencies lacked the authority to ban guns from wildlife areas.

Delaware State Sportsmen's Association (DSSA) and gun clubs filed the lawsuit two years ago to challenge the ban.

DSSA spokesman Thomas Shellenberger said his group is pleased with the decision.

“The need for self defense isn’t limited to a specific area and indeed the Supreme Court majority opinion found your chance of having a police officer right around the corner is much lower in the thousands of acres in state parks than they are for example in Rodney Square,” he said.

Gov. John Carney (D-Delaware) said he’ll be discussing the implications of the decision with DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. DNREC's Division of Parks ans Recreation oversees state parks.

“I was disappointed to be frank with you," he said. "I thought it was an area… I know people have the Constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment to have guns, but with Supreme Court decisions around reasonable and responsible restrictions.”

Chief Justice Leo Strine and Justice Collins Seitz dissented. They said courts have long recognized the state’s authority to restrict gun possession in sensitive areas like parks.

They also say there’s virtually no evidence state parks and forests are dangerous places where criminals and wild animals regularly attack visitors.

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