Local authority to regulate firearms in Delaware is limited by multiple state statutes.

Delaware Code Annotated Title 22, § 111(a) provides, in part:

The municipal governments shall enact no law, ordinance or regulation prohibiting, restricting or licensing the ownership, transfer, possession or transportation of firearms or components of firearms or ammunition except that the discharge of a firearm may be regulated; provided any law, ordinance or regulation incorporates the justification defenses as found in [title 11, §§ 461-471]. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to invalidate municipal ordinances existing before July 4, 1985, and any ordinance enacted after July 4, 1985, is hereby repealed.1

Delaware Code Annotated Title 22, § 835(a)(6) also specifically prohibits amending a municipal charter to:

Prohibit, restrict or license ownership, transfer, possession or transportation of firearms or components of firearms or ammunition, except that the discharge of a firearm may be regulated; provided that any regulation or ordinance incorporates the justification defenses as found in [title 11 of the Delaware Code]. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to invalidate existing municipal ordinances.

Under Delaware Code Annotated Title 9, §330(c), county governments are likewise restricted from enacting any “law or regulation prohibiting, restricting or licensing the ownership, transfer, possession or transportation of firearms or components of firearms or ammunition” with an exception for discharge bans that incorporate the justification defenses as found in [tit. 11, §§ 461-471].2

In 2015, Delaware passed two laws clarifying that, notwithstanding the preemption statutes above, municipal and county governments may still adopt ordinances generally regulating the possession of firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms in police stations and municipal or county buildings, provided that all areas where possession is restricted are clearly identified by a conspicuous sign posted at each entrance to the restricted area.3 However, these building restrictions must exempt certain persons, including concealed carry permit holders, law enforcement officers, and persons subject to protection from abuse court orders.4

Finally, Delaware makes null and void any and all local ordinances that make a shooting range or hunting operation a nuisance or provide for abatement of the shooting range or hunting operation as a nuisance because of changed conditions in or about the locality. This restriction does not apply whenever nuisance results from the negligent or improper operation of any such shooting range or hunting operation or any of its appurtenances, or when there has been a significant and fundamental change in the operation itself.5

There is little case law interpreting title 22, § 111, title 22, § 835(a)(6), or title 9, § 330(c).

 

Notes
  1. “Municipal governments” include all cities, towns and villages created under any general or special law for general governmental purposes, which possess legislative, administrative and police powers for the general exercise of municipal functions and which carry on such functions through a set of officials, and all unincorporated towns. Del. Code Ann. tit. 22, Chapter 1. ⤴︎
  2. Del. Code Ann. tit. 9, § 330(c). The “justification defenses” include such defenses to criminal liability as the use of force for self-protection, the protection of other persons, and the protection of property. ⤴︎
  3. See 2015 DE H.B. 192, enacting Del. Code Ann. tit. 22, § 111(b), and 2015 DE H.B. 201, enacting Del. Code Ann. tit. 9, § 330(d). ⤴︎
  4. Id. For the definition of “municipal building” and “county building,” see Del. Code Ann. tit. 22, § 111(c), and Del. Code Ann. tit. 9, § 330(e), respectively. ⤴︎
  5. Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 8142(d). ⤴︎