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Delaware Gun Laws

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

STATE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION - Article 1, §20.

“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.”

Gun Laws Overview

RIFLES & SHOTGUNS HANDGUNS
Licensing of Owners No No
Permit to Carry No Yes
Permit to Purchase No No
Registration of Firearms No No

The list and map below are included as a tool to assist you in validating your information.  We have made every effort to report the information correctly, however reciprocity and recognition agreements are subject to frequent change.  The information is not intended as legal advice or a restatement of law and does not include:  restrictions that may be placed on non-resident permits, individuals under the age of 21, qualifying permit classes, and/or any other factor which may limit reciprocity and/or recognition.  For any particular situation, a licensed local attorney must be consulted for an accurate interpretation.  YOU MUST ABIDE WITH ALL LAWS: STATE, FEDERAL AND LOCAL.

STATE STATUS
Castle Doctrine No Law
No-Net Loss No Legislation
Right to Carry Confidentiality Provisions Enacted
Right to Carry in Restaurants Legal
Right To Carry Laws Rights Restricted-Very Limited Issue
Right To Carry Reciprocity and Recognition Conditional Recognition
Right to Keep & Bear Arms State Constitutional Provisions With Provisions

The list and map below are included as a tool to assist you in validating your information.  We have made every effort to report the information correctly, however reciprocity and recognition agreements are subject to frequent change.  The information is not intended as legal advice or a restatement of law and does not include:  restrictions that may be placed on non-resident permits, individuals under the age of 21, qualifying permit classes, and/or any other factor which may limit reciprocity and/or recognition.  For any particular situation, a licensed local attorney must be consulted for an accurate interpretation.  YOU MUST ABIDE WITH ALL LAWS: STATE, FEDERAL AND LOCAL.

RECIPROCITY NOTES: Colorado, Florida, Maine, and Michigan recognize Delaware RESIDENT permits ONLY.  DELAWARE recognizes Idaho and South Dakota ENHANCED permits only, and only North Dakota CLASS 1 permits. http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/criminal/concealed-carry-deadly-weapons-ccdw/ 

Concealed Carry Reciprocity
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Click on a State to see the Gun Law Profile

 

Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms

Antiques and Replicas

The definition of a “firearm” under criminal law, 11 Del. C. § 222(f), includes any weapon, except a BB gun, “from which a shot, projectile or other object may be discharged by force of combustion, explosive, gas and/or mechanical means, whether operable or inoperable, loaded or unloaded.”

Delaware defines an antique or replica generally as a firearm manufactured before 1898 or any replica of such firearm that does not fire “rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition” or uses such ammunition no longer manufactured in the U.S. and which is no longer readily available in the ordinary channels of commerce. 

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Antique and replica guns are exempted from (1) the state background check law that applies when federal licensees sell or transfer a firearm out of inventory to a non-federal licensee; (2) the state background check law that applies to a sale, loan, gift or other delivery of a firearm between persons who are not federally licensed as an importer, manufacturer, or dealer; and (3) the “unsafe storage of a firearm” crime, 11 Del. C. § 1456 (although this uses a definition that refers to a firearm manufactured in or before 1899).

Otherwise, due to the definition in state law, antiques and replicas are “firearms” for all other purposes.

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Carrying

It is unlawful for any person except a law enforcement officer (including a “qualified retired law enforcement officer” who meets the state law requirements) to carry any loaded or unloaded firearm concealed upon or about his person without a license to carry. Handguns may be carried in open view, or in an inaccessible area like the trunk of an automobile. Rifles and shotguns must be unloaded while being carried in or on any vehicle, farm machinery, motorboat while under power, or sailboat while under power.

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An application for a license to carry must be filed with the Prothonotary of the Superior Court in the county of residence at least 15 days before the then next term of court. The initial license is valid for 3 years (renewals are for five-year periods).

The applicant must supply a certificate signed by five “respectable” citizens of the county in which the applicant resides, clearly stating that the applicant is a person of “full age (18), sobriety and good moral character, that he bears a good reputation for peace and good order in the community in which he resides, and that the carrying of a concealed deadly weapon by the applicant is necessary for the protection of the applicant or his property or both.” The certificate must be signed with the proper signatures and in the proper handwriting of each respectable citizen. 

The Prothonotary of the county in which any applicant for a license files the same shall cause notice of every application to be published once, at least 10 days before the next term of the Superior Court. The court may or may not, in its discretion, approve any application.

Following the court approval, the applicant must file a notarized certificate indicating that the applicant has completed an approved firearms training course that satisfies the requirements listed at 11 Del. C. § 1441(a)(3).

The applicant must pay a $65.00 application fee plus all taxes for the license, plus the cost of advertising the notice. Renewals are $65.00.

A current holder of a license to carry, may, on or before the expiration date, without further application or additional requirements, renew license for a further period of 5 years by paying to the Prothonotary the license tax and fee, and upon filing with the Prothonotary an affidavit setting forth that the carrying of a concealed deadly weapon is necessary for the protection of himself or his property, or both, and that he possesses all the requirements for the issuance of a license. A person may make license renewals every 5 years thereafter; however, the Superior Court, upon good cause presented to it, may deny a renewal for good cause shown.

Under 11 Del. C. § 1441(k), the state attorney general has the discretion to issue a temporary license to carry to any non-resident of Delaware, based on the attorney general’s finding that the person “has a short-term need to carry” within the state related to that person’s “employment for the protection of person or property.” Any such license expires automatically 30 days after issuance and cannot be renewed, but a new temporary license may be issued, with a maximum of three such licenses per person. The license must be carried at all times while within the state.

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Purchase

No permit is required to purchase a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Purchasers of rifles and shotguns must be 18 years old. Handgun purchasers must be 21 years old.

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State law requires that anyone who engages in “the business of selling any pistol or revolver … or other deadly weapon made especially for the defense of one’s person” obtain a Delaware license and comply with the licensing requirements. The licensing law prohibits sales to those under 21 years of age or to any “intoxicated person.” 24 Del. C. § 903.

State law also makes it a crime for anyone to sell, give or otherwise transfer to anyone under 18 years of age a firearm or ammunition for a firearm, unless the person is that minor's parent or guardian, or first receives the permission of the minor's parent or guardian. 11 Del. C. § 1445(4).

Prior to selling or otherwise transferring any firearm from their inventory to any person (other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector), a licensed dealer must conduct a criminal history background check of the potential purchaser or transferee. The sale or transfer cannot take place unless the dealer receives a “proceed” response on the NICS background check or 25 days have elapsed from the date of the check request for without receiving a “denied” response on the background check. This state law does not apply to sales or transfers of antique or replica guns (that do not require a criminal background check under federal law), transactions where the potential buyer or transferee has a valid Delaware concealed carry license, and transactions involving a “law-enforcement officer.”  

In addition, Delaware has a background check requirement that applies to almost all private sales and other “transfers” of a firearm – 11 Del. C. § 1448B makes it illegal for a person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer or licensed dealer to sell, buy, loan, give or otherwise dispose of or acquire a firearm in Delaware unless the transaction is conducted “through a licensed firearm dealer.” (The procedure is set out at 24 Del. C. § 904A.) 

The background check law for private sales, gifts, loans and other transfers has exceptions. It does not apply to transactions where the purchaser or transferee holds a valid Delaware concealed carry license or is a “qualified law-enforcement officer” or “qualified retired law-enforcement officer”; sales and transfers of antique or replica guns that do not require a criminal background check under federal law; and transactions to specific family members (to a parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, stepparent, legal guardian, grandparent, child, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepchild, grandchild, sibling, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, spouse, or civil union partner of the seller or transferor). Other exemptions cover transfers of a gun to a licensed gunsmith for repair, service or modification, and a loan of a gun for a period of 14 days or less, to a person known personally to the gun owner. 

It is a felony to purchase or obtain a firearm on behalf of a person who cannot legally purchase or possess a firearm in Delaware, or to sell, give or otherwise transfer a firearm to a person not legally qualified to purchase, own or possess a firearm.

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Possession

There is no state licensing requirement for the possession of a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.

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The following persons are prohibited from purchasing or possessing any firearm, ammunition, or “deadly weapon”:

  • Convicted felons.
  • Those with an adjudication as delinquent while a juvenile for conduct which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a felony, until the person reaches their 25th birthday.
  • Those convicted of a crime of violence involving bodily injury to another, including misdemeanors. A misdemeanor conviction is only prohibiting for the five years following the conviction.
  • Those who have been charged with a crime of violence but found incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill, unless the person has since had their firearm rights restored.
  • Those convicted of an offense involving the unlawful use, possession or sale of a narcotic, dangerous drug, or controlled substance. A misdemeanor conviction is only prohibiting for the five years following the conviction.
  • Any person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
  • Those who have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution and have not since had their firearm rights restored.
  • Persons who are subject to a civil order of relinquishment issued under 11 Del. C. § 1448C (“red flag” law).
  • Anyone subject to a Family Court protection from abuse order (other than an ex parte order or certain contested orders), for the duration of that order.
  • Anyone subject to a lethal violence protection order, for the duration of that order.
  • Any person who, knowing that he or she is the defendant or co-defendant in a criminal case in which that person is alleged to have committed any felony in any jurisdiction, becomes a fugitive from justice by failing to appear for any court proceeding relating to those charges, where proper notice was provided or attempted.

A violation of the above “prohibited person” law is a felony.

The same law prohibits any “juvenile” (person under 18 years of age) from possessing a handgun unless the possession is for lawful hunting, firearm instruction, sporting or recreational activity while under the direct or indirect supervision of an adult. It also applies to prohibit the possession of is any semi-automatic or automatic firearm or handgun by any person who, at the same time, possesses a controlled substance in violation of 16 Del. C. § 4763 or § 4764.

Delaware law defines a “firearm” as any weapon from which a shot, projectile or other object may be discharged by force of combustion, explosive, gas and/or mechanical means, whether operable or inoperable, loaded or unloaded. It does not include a BB gun.

“Ammunition” means one or more rounds of fixed ammunition designed for use in and capable of being fired from a pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, but does not include inert rounds or expended shells, hulls or casings.

“Deadly weapon” includes a “knife of any sort” except a pocketknife carried in a closed position and having a blade of three inches or less; slingshot, razor, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, that is used, or attempted to be used, to cause death or serious physical injury.

It is a felony to knowingly give a firearm to a person prohibited from possessing a firearm. It is a felony to purchase a firearm on behalf of a person prohibited from possessing a firearm, or to purchase with the intent to transfer, give, or sell a firearm to a person prohibited from possessing it.

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Firearm Storage

Delaware makes it a crime to intentionally or recklessly store or leave a loaded firearm within “easy access” of a child or a person prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm, where the gun is not stored in a locked box or container or disabled with a tamper-resistant trigger lock, or otherwise stored in a location that a reasonable person would have believed to be secure from access by an unauthorized person, and the child or prohibited person does obtain the gun.

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The law does not apply to a firearm that is carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully-authorized user, a firearm that was obtained as a result of an unlawful entry by any person, or a firearm that is an antique or replica not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition. 11 Del. C. § 1456.

An owner of a “firearm” (defined to include an antique or replica) must report the loss or theft of the firearm within seven days of discovering the loss or theft to either the law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the location where the loss or theft of the firearm occurred, or any State Police troop.11 Del. C. § 1461.

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Machine Guns, Assault Weapons, Magazines, etc.

Delaware has no laws regulating “assault weapons,” “large capacity” magazines, or ammunition by type.

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It is a felony in Delaware to sell, transfer, buy, receive or possess a machine gun or any other firearm or weapon, which is adaptable for use as a machine gun. Persons may possess machine guns for scientific or experimental research and development purposes provided such machine guns have been registered under the provisions of the National Firearms Act. The provisions regarding machine guns do not apply to members of the military forces or to members of a police force in Delaware authorized to carry machine guns.

It is also a crime under state law to sell, transfer, buy, receive or possess a “bump stock” (an after-market device that increases the rate of fire achievable with a semi-automatic rifle by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger) or a “trigger crank” (an after-market device designed and intended to be added to a semi-automatic rifle as a crank operated trigger actuator capable of triggering multiple shots with a single rotation of the crank). The devices must be relinquished to a state law-enforcement agency and are liable to be destroyed 30 days after relinquishment.

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Miscellaneous Provisions

It is a felony to knowingly transport or possess any firearm manufactured after 1973 on which the serial number has been altered or obliterated. 11 Del. C. § 1459.

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It is unlawful to possess a firearm in a public place while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and includes being under the influence of alcohol or “any illicit or recreational drug, as defined…, or any other drug not administered or prescribed to be taken by a physician, to the degree that the person may be in danger or endanger other persons or property, or annoy persons in the vicinity.” It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that the firearm was not readily operable, or that the person was not in possession of ammunition for the firearm. 

“Not readily operable” means that the firearm is disassembled, broken down, or stored in a manner to prevent its immediate use. “Possess” means that the person has the item under his or her dominion and authority, and that said item is at the relevant time physically available and accessible to the person.  A law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that a person has violated this prohibition may, without the consent of the person, “take reasonable steps to conduct chemical testing to determine the person’s alcohol concentration or the presence of illicit or recreational drugs,” and a refusal to submit to chemical testing shall be admissible in any trial for a violation of this law. 11 Del. C. § 1460.

It is unlawful to shoot across a public road/right of way or within 15 yards of it, unless it is for lawful self-defense or unless the road or right-of-way is within an area controlled by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Department of Agriculture of the State or the United States Department of the Interior and is designated by the respective department as an area open to hunting or trapping. 7 Del. C. § 719.

It is unlawful for anyone hunting or trapping to discharge a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied dwelling, house or residence or any barn, stable or another building used in connection with the occupied building, or for anyone to discharge a firearm so that a shot, slug or bullet lands upon any occupied dwelling, house, or residence, or any barn, stable or other building used in connection with the occupied building. This does not apply to the owner or occupant. 7 Del. C. § 723.

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Preemption

State law prohibits municipal governments from enacting a law, ordinance or regulation to prohibit, restrict or license the ownership, transfer, possession or transportation of firearms or components of firearms or ammunition. 

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Ordinances that existed before July 4, 1985 are grandfathered.

Otherwise, a municipality may regulate the discharge of firearms, subject to the state self-defense laws. It may also regulate the possession of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or explosives in police stations and “municipal buildings”(premises owned or leased for the conduct of official government business, but excluding parking facilities).

These premises restrictions cannot prohibit, among others, anyone carrying a concealed firearm and ammunition pursuant to a valid Delaware carry license or authorized to carry under the state implementation of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004.

Local governments that adopt such premises restrictions must post all areas where possession is restricted with a conspicuous sign at each entrance to the restricted area(s). The sign may also specify that persons in violation may be denied entrance to the building or be ordered to leave the building. Any ordinance adopted by a municipal government relating to such restricted areas must state that any person who immediately foregoes entry or immediately exits such building due to the possession of a firearm, ammunition, components of firearms, or explosives shall not be guilty of violating the ordinance.

A similar law, 9 Del. Code § 330(c) and (d), applies to limit the authority of county governments.

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Restoration of Rights

Delaware has a restoration of rights procedure for persons under a mental health-based firearm disability. Gun rights lost due to a criminal conviction may be restored through a pardon; for convictions for crimes that are not felonies, some prohibitions expire after a stated time.

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Firearm disability arising from mental health adjudication, commitment. Any person who is subject to the loss of gun rights under federal or state law [11 Del. C. § 1448(a)(2)] because of a mental health adjudication or commitment that occurred in Delaware may petition the state’s Relief from Disabilities Board for relief from the firearms prohibition. 11 Del. C. § 1448A(l).

This relief is not available to a person who is subject to a civil order to relinquish firearms or ammunition issued under 11 Del. C. § 1448C(d)(1) (so-called “red flag” law).

The petitioner presents evidence to the Board in a closed and confidential hearing on the record. In deciding whether to lift the firearm disability, the Board must consider evidence regarding the following:

  • the circumstances regarding the firearms disabilities;
  • the petitioner’s record, which must include, at a minimum, the petitioner’s mental health record, including a certificate of a medical doctor or psychiatrist licensed in Delaware that the person is no longer suffering from a mental disorder which interferes or handicaps the person from handling deadly weapons;
  • criminal history records, if any, and
  • the petitioner’s reputation, as evidenced through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence.

The Board has the authority to require the petitioner to undergo a clinical evaluation and risk assessment, which the Board may then consider as evidence in determining whether to approve or deny the petition.

After a hearing, the Board must restore the petitioner’s gun rights if it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, both that the petitioner will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety; and granting the relief will not be contrary to the public interest.

A decision of the Board must be in writing and must include the reasons for a denial or grant of relief.

A petitioner whose petition for relief has been denied by the Board has a right to de novo judicial review by the Superior Court. The Superior Court must consider the record of the hearing on the petition for relief, the decision of the Board, and, at the Court’s discretion, any additional evidence it deems necessary to conduct its review.

Once an order has been issued restoring a person’s gun rights, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is required, as soon as practicable, to update the petitioner’s records in any database maintained and made available to NICS to reflect that the petitioner is no longer subject to a mental health-based firearms prohibition under federal law, and notify the federal Attorney General that the petitioner is no longer subject to a mental health-based firearms prohibition under federal and Delaware law.

Under 11 Del. C. § 1448A(m), the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is authorized to adopt regulations on the relief from disabilities process, and must consult with the Department of Health and Social Services, the courts, the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, the Department of State and such other entities as may be necessary or advisable. Such regulations shall include provisions to ensure the identity, confidentiality and security of all records and data provided as part of a petition and hearing.

Firearm disability arising from criminal conviction. State law, 11 Del. C. § 1448(a)(1), (3), (4) and (7) makes persons with certain criminal convictions ineligible to own, purchase, possess or control firearms and ammunition. This includes anyone: convicted in Delaware or elsewhere of a felony or a crime of violence involving physical injury to another, whether or not armed with or having in possession any weapon during the commission of the crime; convicted of certain drug crimes related to a “narcotic drug or controlled substance”; convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; and anyone who, as a juvenile, had been adjudicated as delinquent for conduct which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a felony.

The juvenile adjudication prohibition expires on the person’s 25th birthday, based on 11 Del. C. § 1448(a)(4).

A person who is a prohibited person solely because of a conviction for an offense which is not a felony regains their firearm rights under state law “if 5 years have elapsed from the date of conviction.” 11 Del. C. § 1448(d).

For other convictions, a pardon may restore gun rights. 11 Del. C. § 4364 reads: “Except as otherwise provided by the Delaware Constitution, or expressly by any provision of the Delaware Code or any court rule, the granting of an unconditional pardon by the Governor shall have the effect of fully restoring all civil rights to the person pardoned. Such civil rights include, but are not limited to, the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury if selected, the right to purchase or possess deadly weapons and the right to seek and hold public office provided however, that this section shall not limit or affect the Governor's authority to place lawful conditions upon the granting of a pardon.”

Criminal records in Delaware may also be expunged.

“Expungement” means that all law-enforcement agency records and court records relating to a case in which an expungement is granted, including any electronic records, are destroyed, segregated, or placed in the custody of the State Bureau of Identification, and are not released in conjunction with any inquiry beyond those specifically authorized. 11 Del. C. § 4372(c)(3). Not all convictions are eligible.

For more information about pardons, expungement of records, eligibility, applications, and related issues, see the Restoration of Rights Project website at https://ccresourcecenter.org/restoration and the Delaware Courts website at https://www.courts.delaware.gov/help/expungements.aspx

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Range Protection

Nuisance suits cannot be brought against any shooting range or hunting operation that has been in operation for at least a year if such properties did not constitute a nuisance when operations commenced.

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10 Del. C. § 8142, on limitations on shooting range and hunting operations nuisance suits, reads:

(a) For the purposes of this section, the terms “shooting range” and “hunting operations” and “its appurtenances” mean an operation including any of the following:

(1) Lands, including the buildings and improvements thereon, which are used or which are intended for use for the shooting of targets for training, education, practice, recreation or competition;

(2) Lands, including the buildings and improvements thereon, which are used or which are intended for use as a hunting club, hunting preserve, shooting preserve or a restricted propagating and shooting preserve as provided for in subchapter V of Chapter 5 of Title 7;

(3) Lands, including the buildings and improvements thereon, which are used or which are intended for use as a kennel, training facility or field trial facility for the breeding, showing, raising and/or training of hunting and sporting dogs; and

(4) Clubs, associations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, corporations and other business and social entities whose activities or holdings include the land and uses described in paragraphs (a)(1)--(3) of this section.

(b) This section does not apply to:

(1) Shooting ranges or hunting operations which do not conform to federal, state or local health or zoning requirements except as may otherwise be provided elsewhere herein; or

(2) Shooting ranges or hunting operations which are conducted in a negligent or unlawful manner.

(c) No shooting range or hunting operation or any of its appurtenances shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, by any changed conditions in or about the locality thereof after the same has been in operation for more than 1 year if the operation or the change did not constitute a nuisance from the date the shooting range or hunting operation began or the date the change in the operation began. Likewise, a shooting range or hunting operation which fully complied with local zoning requirements when operations first began shall not be deemed to be non-compliant based upon zoning requirements which have subsequently changed since the initial commencement of operations.

(d) Subject to the limitations of subsection (c) of this section, any and all state laws and ordinances of any unit of local government now in effect or hereafter adopted that would make the operation of any such shooting range or hunting operation or its appurtenances a nuisance or providing for abatement thereof as a nuisance in the circumstances set forth in this section shall be null and void as applied to shooting ranges and hunting operations and their respective appurtenances; however, this section shall not apply whenever nuisance results from the negligent or improper operation of any such shooting range or hunting operation or any of its appurtenances or when there has been a significant and fundamental change in the operation itself.

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SOURCES: Del. Code, Ann. 7-709, 7-726, 7-730, 11-222,11-1441 et seq., 22-838, 24-901, et seq.

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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.