Why a challenge to Delaware law prohibiting gun ownership for most under 21 was dismissed

Gun Rights

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A Delaware Chancery Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging state legislation passed this spring that prohibits most people under the age of 21 from purchasing or owning a firearm.

Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III threw out the lawsuit last week because it raises legal issues that don’t fall under the purview of Chancery Court − which is a court of equity as opposed to a court of law, meaning it offers remedies that direct a party to a specific action other than monetary damages.

A collection of Delaware gun rights activists sought a permanent injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the law.

In his opinion, Glasscock wrote that taking the position that an injunction of potential wrongful enforcement is necessary relief for the case would serve as an “open sesame” to equity and “convert this into a court of general jurisdiction.”

The law 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.

The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, a state-level affiliate of the National Rifle Association, along with a competition club called the Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club, filed the lawsuit at the beginning of November. The plaintiffs also included Gavin Birney, an 18-year-old member of both groups from Sussex County who wanted to possess and purchase handguns for self-defense and to participate in pistol competitions, according to the lawsuit.

The law challenged by the groups 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.

DSSA has also filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against the assault weapons ban. That lawsuit is ongoing.

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

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