Delaware gun groups challenge law prohibiting gun ownership for most under 21-year-olds

Gun Rights

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A collection of Delaware gun rights activists are asking Delaware Chancery Court Wednesday to toss out legislation passed this spring that prohibits most people under the age of 21 from purchasing or owning a firearm.

The legislation is one in a package of bills passed by Democrats in the final months of the legislative session. The others ban the purchase and possession of AR-15s and other assault-style weapons, limit magazine sizes and expand the scope of background checks.

The bills were introduced after a string of mass shootings in the U.S., including the shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school. They met immediate opposition from Republicans and gun rights activists, who rallied on the Legislative Mall in Dover in the final days of the legislative session.

At its close, the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, a state-level affiliate of the National Rifle Association, pledged to challenge the gun reform legislation in court. The association has already filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against a new assault weapons ban.

The 4,500-member DSSA filed the lawsuit Wednesday along with a competition club called the Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club and Gavin Birney, an 18-year-old from Sussex County who belongs to both groups.

The lawsuit argues that the age restriction violates the U.S. Constitution and Delaware’s Constitution, which guarantee the right to bear arms. The Delaware Constitution includes the additional language of “for defense of self, family, home and state and for hunting and recreational use.”

It also contends that member businesses will be unfairly affected by the law.

The law prohibits most Delawareans under the age of 21 from “purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm or ammunition.” It makes multiple exceptions. Active members of the armed forces and law enforcement officers are excluded, as well as those with a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon. Not included in the ban are shotguns and muzzle-loading rifles.

Birney would like to possess and purchase handguns for self-defense and to participate in pistol competitions, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit against the age restriction is one of several challenges to legislation passed by Gov. John Carney and Democratic lawmakers this spring.

The Delaware Supreme Court struck down vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration legislation last month. The court ruled that vote-by-mail legislation “impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters identified” in the state constitution. Delawareans must vote in person or have an excuse to vote absentee. Delawareans had to register to vote by Oct. 15.

A judge also blocked an effort to move state retirees to a Medicare Advantage health care plan. State retirees had been protesting the switch, which was set to go into effect in January.

Contact Brandon Holveck at bholveck@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.

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