Gun laws, carrying behavior continuing to evolve in Sussex

This M.C. Escher-like ramp gives cyclists access to a special bicycle lane on a relatively new bridge over the Missouri River west of Jefferson City. BY DENNIS FORNEY
July 12, 2013

Guns, guns, guns. Where will it all lead? Ron MacArthur wrote a fine piece recently discussing the rapid increase in the number of applications being filed by people seeking permits to carry concealed deadly weapons in Sussex County.

As an illustration for the article, Ron photographed a pistol and holster on a person’s belt. Of course it was in plain view. We wouldn’t have been able to see it otherwise. Greg Bell, who lives in Seaford, commented on our website that the photograph illustrated an “open carry” situation. That means the firearm is carried openly and in plain view.

You’ve read it here many times before, but it bears repeating. No one needs a permit to carry a loaded firearm in Delaware as long as it’s in plain view for everyone to see. Loaded pistol in a holster on a belt like the gunslingers of the Old West: totally legal in Delaware. No permit needed. Pull out your shirttail and conceal the weapon, and you’re breaking the law.

Loaded shotgun or rifle on a gun rack across the back window of your pickup: totally legal in Delaware. Put that same gun in your trunk or under a blanket on the back seat and you’re liable for prosecution. Crazy, huh?

Ten or 15 years ago I took the ferry to New Jersey to hunt rail birds with friends in the tide-flooded wild rice marshes along the upper reaches of the Maurice River. I missed the ferry coming home and spent the night in a motel near Cape May. An unexpected knock on the room door just before dark took me by surprise. I was even more surprised when I opened the door and found myself face-to-face with a uniformed police officer.

“Is that your car outside with a shotgun lying on the back seat?”

‘Sure is,” I said. “Is there a problem?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the officer. “Another guest noticed the gun and reported it to the front desk. They called us so I came to check it out.”

I explained the hunting trip, told him the gun wasn’t loaded, and that was that. He was satisfied, but suggested I put the gun out of sight just to avoid suspicion. There’s not as much of a hunting mentality in New Jersey and too many mob shows, I guess. So many years ago, and even more paranoia and senseless gun rampages these days.

Greg Bell added another interesting comment on Ron’s article. He said he is seeing more instances of “open carry” situations in western Sussex.

When Becky and I were riding through Wyoming, we pitched our tent along the Wind River in Dubois. Beautiful KOA campground. I spoke with the owner of the campground and we found our way to the subject of guns. He told me the Wyoming legislature struck its laws on concealed deadly weapons. “They just got rid of the whole application and permit process,” he said. “Too many problems with defining when a weapon was concealed and when it wasn’t.”

I found that interesting. In Wyoming now it’s just wide open with guns, but I can’t say I ever saw anyone carrying a gun, concealed or otherwise. I also saw or heard very little evidence of crime and almost no police presence except in the larger towns. In the small towns, shrinking budgets have spelled the end of police departments. Of course Wyoming, with less than half a million people, and many times the size of Delaware, is the least populated state in the nation.

I was glad to read in Ron’s article about the educational and training requirements accompanying the concealed deadly weapon process.

Still, how long will it be before we start seeing more handgun accidents because there are more guns in circulation and, for whatever reasons, those guns make their way inadvertently into children’s or criminals’ hands. Society’s attitudes on guns are clearly swinging. Hopefully we won’t have to see a lot more gun violence before the pendulum starts swinging back again.

Regarding bicycle trails

Becky and I made St. Louis this week and have now logged nearly 2,200 miles. In Delaware’s Cape Region we should soon be seeing work on the connector trail between the Gordons Pond end of Cape Henlopen State Park and the Herring Point area. One area of concern in the Grand Henlopen Loop that will be created is the Freeman Highway Bridge. Crossing the bridge, with no separation between cyclists and motorists, can be dangerous. Delaware River and Bay Authority Commissioner Capt. Bill Lowe of Lewes has suggested construction of a separated bicycle lane attached to the bridge. The loop trail will become a real destination activity, and Lowe’s idea deserves action.

I’m including a photo here of the special bicycle switchback ramp constructed by Missouri to give cyclists access to a bridge over the Missouri River which includes a separated bicycle and pedestrian lane.

The bicycle ramp and bridge lane connect the Katy Trail with Jefferson City, the state capital. They’re very serious about the trail and its connectors. It’s estimated that 300,000 people use the 240-mile trail each year. Huge economic impact. The Cape trail will also bring lots of cyclists to town and provide another boost to our coastal economy.

In the meantime, we have to come up with a name for the loop trail that will be created with completion of the state park connector trail. All suggestions welcome. I threw one out but I’m sure there are better ones out there.

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