Federal judge affirms Delaware’s ban of assault weapons

Posted 4/2/23

A federal judge Monday affirmed Delaware legislation enacted in 2022 that regulates assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

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Federal judge affirms Delaware’s ban of assault weapons


WILMINGTON — A federal judge Monday affirmed Delaware legislation enacted in 2022 that regulates assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The laws withstood a challenge from the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association and others, who sought a preliminary injunction to suspend the statutes as a case against them continues.

In a 31-page opinion, Judge Richard G. Andrews of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware stated that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the likelihood of success of its position on the merits and that irreparable harm would result in the absence of a preliminary injunction.

Association President Jeff Hague said that “The DSSA and the other plaintiffs are all disappointed the judge didn’t agree with our request for an injunction against the state to keep them from enforcing what we believe were unconstitutional laws.

“That’s all he’s done at this point. He hasn’t rendered any decision on the underlying issues, the constitutional issues. He just simply said that we don’t have enough, I guess, evidence to rise to the issuance of an injunction against the state.

“We disagree to the point where we’re going to appeal the decision. We don’t believe he did a really good analysis, denying the injunction.”

The Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security was named as the chief defendant in the matter, and it was defended by the Delaware Attorney General’s Office and private counsel.

In a news release Thursday, Attorney General Kathy Jennings described Monday’s mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee — which included the deaths of three children — as a “massacre” and used that incident to underscore “what’s at stake here.

“The list of mass shooters using AR-15s and similar weapons to murder innocents, including children, continues to grow. Gun violence has now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for children in this country.

“And yet the gun lobby fights harder by the day to protect profits over people. No reasonable mind believes that this is what the Founders intended. I’m grateful to the Court for its ruling and its thoughtful analysis of the facts, and to our litigation team for their tireless, excellent work. We will continue to argue for common sense, and the safety of our kids, for as long as it takes.”

When making its argument, the judge found that the defendants “have sufficiently established that assault long guns and (large-capacity magazines) implicate dramatic technological change and unprecedented societal concerns for (the) public.”

In pushing a claim of irreparable harm, according to the opinion, the plaintiffs maintained “ the statutes restrict their ability to sell assault weapons and (large-capacity magazines), resulting in lost business opportunities.”

That position failed in the judge’s opinion because “no court has held that the Second Amendment secures a standalone right to sell guns or range time.”

Additionally, he determined, “Plaintiffs have adduced no evidence that they are likely to incur significant business losses absent a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs remain free to sell the multitude of firearms that are unaffected by the challenged statutes.”

Also in the ruling, Judge Andrews noted that “ the plaintiffs have furnished no evidence that they cannot adequately defend themselves without the regulated weapons, or, indeed, that their ability to self-defend has been meaningfully diminished.”

“Consequently, I am not convinced that an inability to possess or to obtain assault weapons or large capacity magazines for self-defense and other lawful purposes constitutes irreparable harm.”

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 302-741-8296 or canderson@iniusa.org. Follow @ DSNAnderson on Twitter.