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
Former Bloomberg Lackey Comes Clean on True Anti-gun Agenda

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Former Bloomberg Lackey Comes Clean on True Anti-gun Agenda

Back when Mark Glaze was executive director of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and later Everytown for Gun Safety, he went to great lengths to portray his master’s anti-gun positions as moderate. Glaze used ...

“She Persisted” – Gun Owner Fights Unlawful “No Return” Gun Policy

News  

Friday, July 21, 2017

“She Persisted” – Gun Owner Fights Unlawful “No Return” Gun Policy

On July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit confirmed that law enforcement officials in New York acted unlawfully with respect to guns confiscated from a Nassau County woman in 2012.  

“March” Madness: Media Hypes Non-Event at NRA Headquarters

News  

Friday, July 21, 2017

“March” Madness: Media Hypes Non-Event at NRA Headquarters

Numbers don’t lie. But gun control groups and the news media do. That explains why so many accounts of last Friday’s so-called Women’s March From #NRA2DOJ bear no resemblance to the event those of us ...

The Need for National Reciprocity

News  

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Need for National Reciprocity

A report from the Crime Prevention Research Center estimates that the number of concealed carry permits issued last year was the largest increase ever – continuing a four year trend of record setting increases in ...

Supreme Court Asked to Review Maryland's Gun Ban

News  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Supreme Court Asked to Review Maryland's Gun Ban

A group of Maryland citizens, with the support of the National Rifle Association, filed a petition to the United States Supreme Court on Friday seeking to reverse a Court of Appeals ruling that stripped some of America’s most ...

Home Alone in Washington State

News  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Home Alone in Washington State

Back in 2013, when Washington State’s anti-gun groups rolled out Initiative 594, they promised voters this “universal background check” law would save lives by keeping “firearms out of dangerous hands” because private gun sales would ...

Court Strikes Down Unconstitutional Ban on Concealed Carry

News  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Court Strikes Down Unconstitutional Ban on Concealed Carry

D.C. Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Constitutional Right to Carry a Gun in Public for Self-Defense

When Gun Control Fails

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, July 21, 2017

When Gun Control Fails

Gun control is pushed as a strategy to keep Americans safe in their homes, schools and workplaces. It is presented as the key component in safer streets, neighborhoods and families. But what happens when gun ...

California: DOJ Introduces Proposed Regulations Adding “Privacy Notices” to Firearm-Related Forms

Monday, July 24, 2017

California: DOJ Introduces Proposed Regulations Adding “Privacy Notices” to Firearm-Related Forms

On Monday, July 24, the California Department of Justice introduced another set of proposed regulations, this time for the purpose of adding required “privacy notices” to certain firearm-related forms.

The Danger Of A “Not In My Backyard” Mentality On Shooting Ranges

News  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Danger Of A “Not In My Backyard” Mentality On Shooting Ranges

Muscatine County, Iowa, is home to about 40,000 people, and like too many places around the country, gun owners there have no public range where they can practice or compete safely. That may be changing, ...

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.