Sportsmen’s group sues Delaware over new gun laws

Suit claims that commonly owned weapons such as rifles, shotguns, and pistols were inaccurately labeled assault weapons.

Updated: July 24, 2022 - 11:19pm

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One Delaware gun rights group is taking the state to court seeking to overturn the recent passage of new gun laws.

The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association Inc. has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court for the District of Delaware against the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Nathaniel McQueen Jr. in his official capacity as cabinet secretary of the department, and Col. Melissa Zebley in her official capacity as superintendent of the Delaware State Police.

The group claims that when House Bill 450 was signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Carney on June 30, a list of commonly owned weapons such as rifles, shotguns, and pistols, according to the release, were “pejoratively and inaccurately labeling those firearms as ‘assault weapons.'”

Jeff Hague, president of the sportsmen’s association, said the organization has been working to protect and “defending the rights of Delaware’s hunters, sportsmen and women, and law-abiding gun owners” dating back to 1968, according to the release.

“This is not the first time we have challenged unconstitutional and illegal actions of government officials in court, and it will not be the last,” Hague said in the release. “We promised our members and the people of Delaware that if HB450 ever became law we would challenge that law and today we kept that promise.”

He said the organization has kept its promise in filing the suit against the state in an effort to “protect the constitutional rights of our members and the people of Delaware.”

Under the bill, known as the Delaware Lethal Firearms Safety Act of 2022, the manufacturing, sales, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, receipt, possession and transport of assault weapons, aside from those lawfully possessed or purchased before the bill became law, is prohibited.

The law classifies weapons that feature a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower used in a sports, or recreational, form is outweighed by “the danger that is can be used to kill and injure human beings” and are restricted on the possession and use of those weapons. However, the bill states that it is not the intent of the Legislature to place restrictions on those weapons designed for hunting, target practice or other legitimate sports or recreational activity.

The law also provides that anyone currently owning, or possessing, those weapons are encouraged to receive a certificate of ownership from the state’s Department of Homeland Security, according to the bill.

The lawsuit alleges that the new law violates an individual citizen’s constitutional right “to keep and bear arms” that are guaranteed under the Delaware and U.S. Constitutions.

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