Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Delaware Supreme Court Sides with Public Housing Tenants on the Right to Bear Arms

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On March 18, the Delaware Supreme Court struck a blow for gun rights, and against economic discrimination, when it struck down a Wilmington Housing Authority policy that restricted the rights of public housing tenants to bear arms where they live. The court ruled in the case of Jane Doe v. Wilmington Housing Authority that under the state’s constitutional right to arms provision, policies restricting residents from carrying firearms in common areas and requiring tenants to produce paperwork attesting to their lawful ownership of firearms were not permissible.

The case originated in 2010 when two public housing residents, identified in the litigation as Jane Doe and Charles Boone,filed suit against the WHA, contending that the agency’s rules violated both the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and the Delaware Constitution. The NRA provided direct assistance in the filing of the suit.

Article I, § 20 of the Delaware Constitution 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.” Both Doe and Boone’s lease agreements had onerous rules regarding firearms in housing under WHA jurisdiction. In particular, Boone took issue with a rule stating that tenants could not, “display, use or possess… any firearms, (operable or inoperable) or dangerous instruments or deadly weapons as defined by the laws of the State of Delaware anywhere on the property of the Authority.”

The case was making its way through the U.S. District Court in Delaware when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment binds not just federal actions but those of states and their localities as well. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the WHA revised the worst aspects of its firearm policy and allowed for possession of firearms within a tenant’s unit. 

The WHA nevertheless continued its approach of not allowing firearms in common areas. The new policy stated that a resident “[s]hall not display or carry a firearm or other weapon in any common area,” and included a provision requiring that residents “[s]hall have available for inspection a copy of any permit, license, or other documentation required by state, local, or federal law for the ownership, possession, or transportation of any firearm or other weapon, including a license to carry a concealed weapon… upon request, when there is reasonable cause to believe that the law or this Policy has been violated.”

The District Court ruled in favor of the WHA, with Judge Leonard P. Stark writing in the court’s opinion that the “Common Area Provision regulates conduct that is not within the ‘core’ of what is protected by the Second Amendment.” This action prompted the tenants to appeal their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

In July 2013, the Third Circuit certified the caseto the Delaware Supreme Court. The Third Circuit requested the Delaware court to rule on whether, under Article I, § 20 of the Delaware Constitution, the WHA’s firearm policies regarding carry in common areas and production of documents were permissible. Under the principles of federalism, state courts are considered to be ultimate arbiters of state laws that do not implicate the U.S. Constitution or federal law. 

In analyzing whether the Delaware State Constitution bars the WHA’s policies, state Justice Henry Ridgley, writing for the en banc court, provided background on the right to bear arms in the First State. His opinion noted that “Delaware is an ‘open carry’ state,” and that “[l]ike the citizens of our sister states at the founding, Delaware citizens understood that the ‘right of self-preservation’ permitted a citizen to ‘repe[l] force by force’.” Ridgley went on to explain that although Delaware did not include a provision protecting the right to keep and bear arms at the state constitutional convention of 1791, “there was an apparent consensus among the delegates on an individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense.” With regard to the adoption of the right to keep and bear arms provision in 1987, Ridgley noted that the General Assembly intended to “explicitly protect[] the traditional right to keep and bear arms.”

The Delaware court also found that “the Delaware provision is intentionally broader than the [district court’s reading of the] Second Amendment and protects the right to bear arms outside the home, including for hunting and recreation.” Thus, according to Ridgley, “Section 20 is not constrained by the federal precedent relied upon by WHA.”

The Delaware court went on to apply an intermediate scrutiny test to the WHA policy barring firearm possession in common areas, under which “[t]he governmental action cannot burden the right more than is reasonably necessary to ensure that the asserted governmental objective is met.” Ridgley’s opinion explained that “WHA must show more than a general safety concern and it has not done so.” It then found that the burden the WHA policy places on tenants is substantial: “With the Common Area Provision in force under penalty of eviction, reasonable, law-abiding adults become disarmed and unable to repel an intruder by force in any common living areas.” Moreover, the opinion states, “the restrictions of the Common Area Provision are overbroad and burden the right to keep and bear arms more than is reasonably necessary.”

In striking down the policy requiring that residents produce evidence of their lawful ownership of a firearm, the court reasoned that since this policy was enacted to enforce the common area ban, which is unconstitutional, the paperwork requirement is illegal as well.

NRA had been involved with this battle to protect the rights of Delaware’s disadvantaged through its various stages, and filed a friend of the court brief with the Delaware Supreme Court in September 2013. The ruling is an important victory for the residents of Delaware and represents a triumph over gun control policies that all-too-often disproportionately affect the poor.

TRENDING NOW
Guns and Taxes

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Guns and Taxes

David Hogg wants a federal tax on firearms and ammunition. He has repeatedly broached the idea, including multiple times on Twitter, and only sometimes suggests a use for the tax revenue. Hogg’s tweets on a ...

Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

Friday, December 7, 2018

Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

On December 5th, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group backed by out-of-state elites, announced it will pursue its most extreme anti-gun legislative agenda to date during the upcoming 2019 Washington Legislative Session.

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

In a November 30 tweet, Tom Arnold, famous for being married to Roseanne Barr and making a few really bad movies, has proven that he knows nothing about guns, gun owners or firearm misuse.

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

The U.S.’s republican form of governance is predicated on co-equal branches of government that check and balance each other in order to preserve individual liberty. The system does not work when one branch simply ignores ...

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

As we’ve noted recently, much research purporting to demonstrate connections between access to guns or right-to-carry laws and increases in crime is seriously flawed.  Often it's an attempt to curtail or eliminate Americans’ rights under the Second ...

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

News  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

Levi Strauss & Co. established its brand in the mid-19th century by selling durable clothing to working-class Americans. As Levi’s signature jeans gained popularity amongst a wider set in the middle of the last century, ...

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

While the New Mexico Legislature will not convene for its 60-day Regular Session until January 15, lawmakers can start prefiling bills on December 17. 

Ohio: Self-Defense Legislation Passes Senate Immediately Heads to House for Concurrence

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ohio: Self-Defense Legislation Passes Senate Immediately Heads to House for Concurrence

Today, the Ohio State Senate passed Substitute House Bill 228 by a vote of 19 - 10.   While the legislation was amended, Sub. HB 228 still contains important protections for the Second Amendment and ...

California: Firearm Excise Tax Legislation Introduced

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

California: Firearm Excise Tax Legislation Introduced

This week, the California Legislature convened for an organizational session and swearing in ceremonies for legislators. During their short stint in Sacramento several new anti-gun proposals were introduced, including Assembly Bill 18, sponsored by Assembly ...

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

News  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

In a recent piece for the Bangor Daily News ironically titled, “Why banning handguns makes sense,” Associate University of Maine Electrical Engineering Professor George Elliott struggled to argue why the tools of self-defense have no ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

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.