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
Bloomberg Dismisses Texas Hero, Insists It Wasn’t His “Job” to Have a Gun or Decide to Shoot

News  

Monday, January 6, 2020

Bloomberg Dismisses Texas Hero, Insists It Wasn’t His “Job” to Have a Gun or Decide to Shoot

Jack Wilson – a 71-year-old congregant of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Tex. – is a hero to most Americans. When a deranged man savagely murdered two of Mr. Wilson’s fellow ...

Sorry Shannon, But Those “Random Civilians” Are What Are Known As NRA Members

News  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sorry Shannon, But Those “Random Civilians” Are What Are Known As NRA Members

We were well aware that after New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent a cool $2.5 million on his latest acquisition, majority control of the Virginia General Assembly, law-abiding gun owners in The Old Dominion would see an onslaught of legislation ...

New Hampshire: Bill to Shut Down Shooting Ranges Set for Committee Hearing

Thursday, January 16, 2020

New Hampshire: Bill to Shut Down Shooting Ranges Set for Committee Hearing

On January 23rd, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 469, sponsored by Senator Jeanne Dietsch (D – District 9), at 10:00 AM in Room 100 of the State ...

Virginia Senate Passes Three Gun Control Bills - Committee Advances a Fourth

News  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Virginia Senate Passes Three Gun Control Bills - Committee Advances a Fourth

Last week, the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee sent four gun control bills to the full chamber. The measures included an attack on the state firearms preemption statute and Right-to-Carry permit holders (SB35), a one-handgun-a-month bill ...

State of Ignorance: California Pushes False Information to School Kids on the Second Amendment

News  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

State of Ignorance: California Pushes False Information to School Kids on the Second Amendment

As an incorporated provision of the United States Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment is the supreme law of the land, applying to all U.S. jurisdictions and to the actions of federal, state, and local ...

Washington: Upcoming Hearings On Gun Bills This Week

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Washington: Upcoming Hearings On Gun Bills This Week

As previously announced, the Washington State Legislature will be hosting committee hearings next week on over a dozen Second Amendment related bills. Please see below for the latest information on the committee hearing agendas, including ...

Missouri: Gun Bills Filed for 2020 Session

Friday, January 10, 2020

Missouri: Gun Bills Filed for 2020 Session

With the 2020 Missouri legislative session starting, legislators have filed pro-gun and anti-gun legislation. See below for information on some of the bills that have been introduced to date. Your NRA-ILA will keep you informed of ...

Virginia Gov. Northam Wants Millions in Tax Money to Ban Guns and Jail Gun Owners!

News  

Monday, January 6, 2020

Virginia Gov. Northam Wants Millions in Tax Money to Ban Guns and Jail Gun Owners!

In recent weeks NRA-ILA informed Virginia gun owners about gun control funding included in the state budget bill. The budget legislation, HB30, included a $250,000 appropriation to the Corrections Special Reserve Fund in order to provide for the ...

Los Angeles Backs Down, Repeals Controversial Ordinance Targeting NRA

News  

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Los Angeles Backs Down, Repeals Controversial Ordinance Targeting NRA

FAIRFAX, Va. — The Los Angeles City Council today voted to formally repeal a controversial city ordinance requiring contractors seeking to do business with the city to disclose ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA). The ...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Alert! Florida REPUBLICAN Senators Vote for Massive Gun Control Bill

On Monday, 1/13/20, it happened again.  Senate President Bill Galvano picked a fight with Floridians who believe in the constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms. It is well known -- even by the media ...

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.