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Federal judge places temporary injunction on parts of Delaware's "ghost gun" ban

Delaware Public Media

A Federal District Court Judge has temporarily barred Delaware from enforcing some components of a 2021 law banning the manufacture, possession and sale of untraceable homemade guns.

Delaware District Court Judge Maryellen Norieka’s ruling comes nearly a year after the California-based Firearms Policy Coalition sued Governor John Carney and Attorney General Kathy Jennings, asking the court to overturn the law on constitutional grounds. The lawsuit takes aim at multiple components of the bill, including a prohibition on the distribution of codes needed to manufacture firearms with a 3D printer.

On Friday, Norieka granted the gun rights group’s request for a temporary injunction on the enforcement of some components of the law, including the ban on the possession or manufacture of homemade firearms. She did not, however, pause the enforcement of a ban on the distribution of untraceable guns or functional codes for 3D printers, nor did she grant the permanent injunction that the Firearms Policy Coalition requested.

In a statement to Delaware Public Media on Monday, Jennings said that her office plans to continue fighting the lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the ban on the manufacture and possession of untraceable guns is a part of the state’s broader strategy for curbing gun violence.

"The idea that the Founders intended “well-regulated militia” to mean 'unregulated, untraceable, semi-automatic guns” is a delusion,' she wrote. "Let’s be clear: violent criminals choose ghost guns because these guns make it harder to bring murderers to justice and more dangerous for our law enforcement community. That’s the bottom line for Delawareans, and why it remains illegal to sell or distribute ghost guns in our state. With shootings down 30% this year, Delaware needs to keep pushing forward. We will continue to make our case in court and will keep working with our partners in the legislature to protect our children from gun violence."

Delaware House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-15), the lead sponsor of the ban on untraceable guns, underscored that the injunction does not wholly defang the law.

"This court decision is disappointing, even though it only applies to very specific parts of the law about possession and manufacturing these firearms," she said. "Much of the language we voted to enact remains in place and will help keep weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them." Longhurst also noted that the Biden administration recently began requiring background checks for sales of firearms parts.

The Firearms Policy Coalition did not respond to a request for comment.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.