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Political Litigation

Delaware Faces Lawsuit Over New Handgun Purchase, Permit Rules

— May 16, 2024

The lawsuit contends that the language of recent legislation requiring that prospective handgun purchasers obtain training and a special license threatens both the Second and Fourth Amendment rights of Delaware residents.

The Delaware Sportsmen’s Association has announced a federal lawsuit challenging a recently-passed state law that would require residents to obtain permits before purchasing handguns.

According to, the complaint centers on recently-enacted legislation: Delaware Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 2. Signed into law by Gov. John Carney on Thursday, the bill requires that most residents seeking to purchase a handgun first obtain training and a permit.

“Signing this piece of legislation is another important step forward to help keep our communities safe,” Gov. Carney said on Thursday, thanking the members of the General Assembly who wrote the bill as well as “the many advocates who have supported gun safety efforts in our state.”

However, Delaware Sportsmen’s Association President Jeff Hague—whose organization is supporting the lawsuit alongside several individual plaintiffs—has criticized the law as broadly politically-motivated, misplaced, and unconstitutional.

“This is another, in a long line of cases, where the General Assembly has blatantly and intentionally ignored the Constitution and pandered to those that would see our rights infringed upon because they believe we, as law-abiding individuals, are subject to a government that thinks they know better how to live our lives,” Hague said in a statement.

The legislation, Hague said, “is just another example of legislators and government officials demonizing objects rather than holding criminals responsible, while ignoring the studies conducted by the federal [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] suggesting how to address those problems.”

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“It is well known that criminals, by definition, do not obey the law,” he said.

The lawsuit names a series of defendants, most of whom would be charged with ensuring that the law is enforced: the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and several state-level officials.

Attorneys for the Sportsmen’s Association, as well as the individual plaintiffs, provided examples of how enforcement of the law could violate different constitutional protections.

“[…] If one’s handgun permit is revoked for any reason, the State Police and/or local police shall purportedly have ‘probable cause’ to effect the ‘surrender’ or removal of the handguns from the individuals’ home [sic], which is a violation of not only the Second Amendment, but also the Fourth Amendment,” the complaint states. “Defendants’ enforcement of the provisions at issue in SS 1 for SB 2 inflicts irreparable harm upon the Plaintiffs, law-abiding citizens wishing to exercise the right to purchase a handgun for self-defense.”

Hague, adds, was keen to point out that—during legislative hearings on the bill’s apparent unconstitutional—lawmakers responded to criticism by saying, “So sue us.”

“Today, we did,” the Sportsmen’s Association said in a statement.


Gov. Carney signs permit to purchase bill

Permit-to-purchase handgun bill becomes law in Del., but faces court challenge

State Sportsmen, others file lawsuit against permit-to-purchase law

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