Lawyer: State ‘inconsistent’ in park gun restrictions

DOVER — The State of Delaware allows lawfully owned and permitted firearms in more than 99 percent of the area in state parks, forests and wildlife areas.

A lawsuit contesting the remaining portion of land where guns are prohibited by the state was debated in Superior Court Friday afternoon.

The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association and Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club are among the plaintiffs challenging the state’s regulations in certain areas such as “tents, cabins, cottages, yurts, lodges and other overnight housing used by those sleeping in rented accommodations in state parks or state forests,” according to court documents.

The entities believe citizens have the right to protect themselves and regulations violate the Delaware Code and the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed against the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Agriculture and their secretaries Shawn M. Garvin and Michael T. Scuse, respectively.

The state filed for a motion of judgment in response to the lawsuit, arguing that the restricted areas were compact and narrowly drawn in response to an earlier Delaware Supreme Court ruling that overturned the past complete prohibiting of firearms in parks, forests and wildlife areas.

Francis G.X. Pileggi made the plaintiffs case before Judge Jeffrey J. Clark Friday, with Deputy Attorney General Ralph K. Durstein III representing the state.

Mr. Durstein said the state believes campgrounds are sensitive areas due to a common area where many people may gather, controlled entry points and access to roadways by law enforcement. Firearms requirements mandating that they stay in vehicles in nearby parking lots causes no lasting harm to citizen rights, according to the state.

While Mr. Pileggi acknowledged that some areas such as educational training centers should be considered sensitive and firearm free, he expressed concern that other state agencies could determine similar safe zones based on what applies to some parks, forests and wildlife areas.

He believes DNREC and the Delaware Department of Agriculture are exceeding their authorities with the regulations, which he claims are inconsistent and conflict with existing statutes.

Mr. Durstein said the state determined sensitive areas in a conservative manner and worked through the process of creating regulations in a transparent way with public input considered.

Friday’s hearing was scheduled in an expedited manner to address the issues, according to the lawyers.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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