Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Delaware House lawmakers advance bill prohibiting firearms on university and college campuses

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

A bill making it a felony to bring a firearm onto a college campus passes in the Delaware House.

The bill would add higher education institutions to the existing School Safe Zone Act, which already prohibits firearms on kindergarten, elementary, secondary and vocational-technical schools.

During House floor debate, State Rep. Cyndie Romer (D-Newark) says her bill aims to formulate a law against firearms on campuses by combining existing university and college policies against firearms on school property.

“To be clear, if you are currently on a college campus in Delaware, you are violating that school’s policy on firearms," Romer said.

She says all colleges and universities support her bill, and there are exemptions for law enforcement and those with written permission from administration.

Republican representatives argue allowing university administration to provide written permission to carry a firearm is similar to a former Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control provision that was struck down by the Delaware Supreme Court.

The initial regulation made it illegal to possess a firearm on lands or waters administered by the Division of Parks and Recreation, except with prior written approval of the director.

The 2017 decision, written by Justice Karen Valihura, argues, "The Agencies not only fail to justify such sweeping regulations, but fail to show that they had the authority to enact such unconstitutional regulations in the first place."

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R-Clayton) also argues being in violation of school policy and committing a felony is a drastic difference, explaining firearm owners could be legally walking on a city-owned sidewalk then enter campus-owned property unknowingly.

"If I'm walking down the street on a college campus, God forbid a person would have to use their concealed carry to defend themselves, and I step off the sidewalk on the grass — [that would be a] class E felony," Spiegelman said.

But Romer disagrees with this sentiment, arguing it’s the responsibility of firearm carriers to be aware of the state’s gun laws, and this one would be no different.

“The message is don’t come on the college campus if you have a gun — it is not safe. Guns and colleges do not mix. So whether it is intentional or not — yes. If there’s going to be a sign, you can leave that gun in your car in a safe storage [container], but if you get out of the car, yes, you’re committing a felony," she said.

Spiegelman also argues Delaware's current definition of a firearm includes paintball guns and airsoft guns, therefore those projectiles would be included under this bill.

Romer says because Delaware's definition of a firearm has not yet been updated, a bill Spiegelman has already written and is awaiting a vote on the House floor, it is her intent to ban paintball guns and airsoft guns on campuses as well.

The bill passed with no Republican support and one Democratic representative defecting. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
Related Content