Federal court upholds Delaware assault weapon ban

Preliminary injunction denied pending court order
March 30, 2023

A federal judge upheld Delaware’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in an opinion issued March 27, pending a future court order.

Following Delaware’s passage of legislation that banned those items, the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association and other individuals filed lawsuits claiming, for the most part, a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular, the lawsuit stated that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines were "in common use" for self-defense, and plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction against Delaware’s laws.

U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware Judge Richard G. Andrews denied the injunction in his 31-page opinion.

“I find that the [large-capacity magazine] and assault long gun prohibitions of [the Delaware laws] are consistent with the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation. Plaintiffs have therefore failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of their Second Amendment claim,” he wrote.

Andrews found that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of establishing likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm, noting that Delaware gun owners “retain ample effective alternatives” to assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for self defense. The court also found that historical analysis supports ongoing enactment of the bans, noting that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines “implicate technological change and unprecedented societal concerns for public safety.”

Attorney General Kathleen Jennings applauded the court’s decision.

“This week’s heartbreaking massacre in Nashville, including the murder of three children, underscores what’s at stake here,” Jennings said in a statement. “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.”

Under the court’s opinion, Delaware’s assault weapons ban and large-capacity magazine ban will remain in effect until an appropriate order by the court is issued. 

The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association said they plan to appeal the recent opinion. “In reviewing his opinion, it is riddled with incorrect findings and while he points out multiple times that he agrees with our position, he then does an about face.”

A trial by plaintiffs challenging the bans is set for Nov. 13.


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter