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
Shoddy Science and Shaky Assumptions: Court Invalidates California’s Handgun Ad Ban on First Amendment Grounds

News  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Shoddy Science and Shaky Assumptions: Court Invalidates California’s Handgun Ad Ban on First Amendment Grounds

Earlier this month, a federal court invalidated California’s ban on premises advertising relating to handguns (but not other firearms), disparaging the state’s proffered justification for the law as nothing more than “mere speculation and conjecture.” 

New Industry Statistics Underscore Popularity of “America’s Rifle”

News  

Friday, September 21, 2018

New Industry Statistics Underscore Popularity of “America’s Rifle”

Senator Dianne Feinstein has spent the last 26 years pushing gun control at the federal level and earlier this month demonstrated her willingness to distort facts and Supreme Court precedent in her ongoing effort to ...

Outrageous! NC University Forces Student to Remove NRA Flag from Dorm Window

News  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Outrageous! NC University Forces Student to Remove NRA Flag from Dorm Window

Elon University student forced to remove NRA banner from his dorm room window.

Bloomberg Presidential Run? Maybe. Bloomberg Effort to Buy the Midterms? Definitely.

News  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Bloomberg Presidential Run? Maybe. Bloomberg Effort to Buy the Midterms? Definitely.

Billionaire gun control financier and former-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is once again floating a presidential run.

Gun Control Twist: Saving One Life “Does Not Justify” Right-to-Carry

News  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gun Control Twist: Saving One Life “Does Not Justify” Right-to-Carry

Gun control advocates often use some version of the phrase “if it saves one life” in order to justify their ineffective proposals. This week, the anti-gun editorial page of the Chicago Sun-Times offered a different ...

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, ...

Anti-gun Senator Accompanied by “Unprecedented” Security Detail While Traveling in California

News  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Anti-gun Senator Accompanied by “Unprecedented” Security Detail While Traveling in California

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is no fan of the Second Amendment. As California attorney general, she sided with local officials who refused to issue concealed carry permits to qualified, law-abiding applicants unless they could demonstrate an extraordinary ...

NRA Calls on Phil Bredesen to Retract Misleading Ad

News  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NRA Calls on Phil Bredesen to Retract Misleading Ad

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund today called on U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen to retract a false and misleading campaign ad where he cites an incorrect NRA grade and misleads voters by claiming ...

Gun Control Activist Urges Canadian Audience to Get Involved in U.S. Politics

News  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Gun Control Activist Urges Canadian Audience to Get Involved in U.S. Politics

For someone who has previously falsely accused the NRA of funneling foreign money into domestic politics, it must be that David Hogg either forgot he was in Canada recently or failed to appreciate that it’s also illegal ...

News  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NRA Endorses Marsha Blackburn for U.S. Senate

On behalf of our six million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) today endorsed Marsha Blackburn for U.S. Senate in Tennessee.

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.