Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Case against Wilmington Housing Authority Moves to State Supreme Court

Friday, January 17, 2014

Last August, there was an encouraging development in NRA’s lengthy battle to ensure the rights of those living in public housing under the jurisdiction of the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA). Rather than endorse a July 27, 2012, ruling by U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware Judge Leonard P. Stark, which upheld the housing authority’s gun policy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit remanded the case to the Delaware Supreme Court, where Judge Stark’s finding could be reversed. Since the Third Circuit’s ruling moving the case to the Delaware Supreme Court, NRA and others have filed briefs outlining the illegality of the WHA’s actions.

The case, Doe v. Wilmington Housing Authority, originated in 2010, when a complaint challenging WHA’s complete ban on firearm possession on WHA-managed premises was filed on behalf of two WHA residents with the Delaware Court of Chancery. The case was later removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. Under the ban, those Wilmington residents who found it necessary to take advantage of public housing options were denied their right to bear arms, even in their own units. Prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, WHA eventually replaced the total firearm ban with oppressive regulations governing firearm possession in “common areas” such as the hallways outside a public housing resident’s apartment. Both bans implicate rights protected by the Second Amendment and the Delaware State Constitution and are characteristic of an anti-gun movement that has long targeted the economically disadvantaged through excessive taxation, expensive licensing schemes, and bans on affordable firearms.

Counsel for the plaintiffs attacked the ban on several fronts in arguments to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that the common area ban violated their client’s right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment and Section 20 of the Delaware State Constitution, which states, “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.” Further, they contended that Delaware’s firearms preemption law did not allow for WHA to impose such a regulation, and that in doing so WHA has exceeded its authority.

In ruling against the plaintiffs, Judge Stark claimed that the “Common Area Provision regulates conduct that is not within the ‘core’ of what is protected by the Second Amendment,” and rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that a strict scrutiny test must be applied to the WHA regulation, opting instead for an application of intermediate scrutiny, which Stark found the regulation passes. Stark then endorsed similar reasoning for rejecting the plaintiffs’ argument invoking the protection of the Delaware State Constitution. Stark also determined that while Delaware state law explicitly bars municipalities and counties from passing their own firearms laws, it neglects to explicitly include state agencies such as the WHA. Following Stark’s disappointing ruling, the case was appealed to the Third Circuit, and then sent by that court to the Delaware Supreme Court, where it now resides. 

On September 20, 2013, NRA filed a friend of the court brief with the Delaware Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs. Early on, the brief cites McDonald to illustrate the perversity of the WHA ban, noting that the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment right “is especially important for women and members of other groups that may be especially vulnerable to violent crime.” The brief then points out that a 2000 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that public housing residents are at particular risk of violence perpetrated with guns, thus their right to keep and bear arms is of particular importance.

The brief goes on to make the case that Section 20 of the state constitution protects the right to “’bear” arms outside the home where they are ‘kept’,” citing the difference in the terms “keep” and “bear” as recognized by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Later, the brief notes, “Heller and McDonald make clear that the core of the right to bear arms consists of a purpose not a place: lawful self-defense,” and as such, the constitutional right to arms protects a WHA resident’s rights beyond the person’s individual unit. Further, the brief makes the case that Section 20’s protections are even broader than the Second Amendment.

Another friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs was filed on behalf of a bipartisan coalition of 16 members of the Delaware State Assembly. This brief argues for an expansive interpretation of Section 20, citing the legislative history surrounding the section’s enactment. The brief provides the court with the historical backdrop under which the Section 20 was added to the state constitution in 1987, noting that “even critics of Section 20 read it as providing stronger protection against restrictive firearms regulation than the then-prevalent view [of the right to keep and bear arms] in the federal courts.” 

Later on, the General Assembly brief explains that Delaware’s legislative body never intended for the WHA to have the power to regulate firearms. It states, “The Wilmington Housing Authority is a creature of the General Assembly, which has given the WHA only limited powers. Nothing in the provisions of law establishing the WHA gave it any power to regulate firearm ownership.” The brief then goes on to cite examples of the specific enumerated powers given to the WHA. The brief also includes a discussion of the legislative history of Delaware’s firearm preemption law and why it precludes WHA’s enactment of firearm regulations.

With this lengthy litigation now before the Delaware Supreme Court, it is possible that relief is in sight for Wilmington’s public housing residents. NRA will keep members updated with the latest on this important case and continue working to ensure respect for the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding members of society, regardless of socio-economic stature.

TRENDING NOW
California: Draft "Assault Weapon" Regulation Language Now Available

Thursday, May 18, 2017

California: Draft "Assault Weapon" Regulation Language Now Available

Today, May 18, a draft copy of the "Assault Weapon" regulations has been made available

Federal Lawsuit Challenging California’s Ban on Standard Capacity Magazines Filed

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Federal Lawsuit Challenging California’s Ban on Standard Capacity Magazines Filed

Today, May 18, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) announced it is supporting, along with the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), an important Second Amendment lawsuit challenging California’s ban on the possession ...

Illinois: House Committee Passes Bill to Close Local Gun Dealers

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Illinois: House Committee Passes Bill to Close Local Gun Dealers

The House Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1657 by a 7-6 vote.

From My Cold Wet Hands: Humorless Scold Targets Squirt Guns

News  

Friday, May 19, 2017

From My Cold Wet Hands: Humorless Scold Targets Squirt Guns

We have yet to reach Memorial Day, but the fun police have already set their sights on at least one cherished summer childhood activity. In an article for Pupsugar.com, titled, “Why Kids Should Never Play ...

Court's Commonsense Conclusion: "There Was a Gun" Isn't Enough to Justify Issuing a Restraining Order

Second Amendment  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Court's Commonsense Conclusion: "There Was a Gun" Isn't Enough to Justify Issuing a Restraining Order

The Supreme Court of North Dakota confirmed this week that simply possessing a handgun while on one’s own private property cannot support a finding of "disorderly conduct" under the state’s disorderly conduct restraining order law. ...

Bloomberg's Everytown Creates "Authors Council" to Push Anti-Gun Propaganda

News  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bloomberg's Everytown Creates "Authors Council" to Push Anti-Gun Propaganda

As if the country’s media weren’t already sufficiently co-opted by anti-gun advocates, this week, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety announced an effort to pervert an additional facet of American entertainment. The billionaire bank-rolled interest group has ...

New York: Outrageous Insurance Bill Headlines Long List of Anti-Gun Bills

Monday, March 13, 2017

New York: Outrageous Insurance Bill Headlines Long List of Anti-Gun Bills

The yearly onslaught of anti-gun legislation in the Empire State is concrete proof that anti-gun politicians will never be satisfied until guns are completely banned.  Even though Albany lawmakers passed arguably the nation’s harshest gun ...

Nevada: Anti-Gun Bills Fail to Pass Second Chamber Policy Committee Deadline

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nevada: Anti-Gun Bills Fail to Pass Second Chamber Policy Committee Deadline

Today, May 19, was the second chamber policy committee deadline.  Two anti-gun bills, Senate Bill 115 and Senate Bill 387, both failed to pass out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and are now dead for the 2017 legislative ...

Illinois: Last Chance to Save your Local Gun Dealer!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Illinois: Last Chance to Save your Local Gun Dealer!

The Illinois House of Representatives may consider Senate Bill 1657, legislation that could put your local gun dealer out of business, at any time! It is imperative that you contact your state Representative IMMEDIATELY and ...

California: Department of Justice Submits Assault Weapon Regulations to Office of Administrative Law

Monday, May 15, 2017

California: Department of Justice Submits Assault Weapon Regulations to Office of Administrative Law

Today, May 15, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted draft regulations on "Assault Weapons" to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).  

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.