The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) have proposed new regulations expanding the scope of legal possession of firearms within Delaware’s state parks, state wildlife areas and state forests. The regulations were the subject of a public hearing on March 12, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the DNREC auditorium at 89 Kings Highway, in Dover.
Supreme Court Ruling, Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club, Ltd., et al., v. Small, et al. (Dec. 7, 2017)
Public Hearing Notice: March 12, 2018
Written comment will be accepted via USPS to Lisa Vest, DNREC Hearing Officer, DNREC-Office of the Secretary, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In December, 2017, a Delaware Supreme Court decision (Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club, Ltd., et al., v. Small, et al. [Dec. 7, 2017]) expanded the scope of visitors’ ability to possess firearms in Delaware’s state parks, state wildlife areas, and state forests. State parks and state wildlife areas are under DNREC jurisdiction. State forests are under the Department of Agriculture’s Jurisdiction.
The two agencies have proposed amendments to the regulations governing state parks (7 DE Admin Code 9201), state wildlife areas (7 DE Admin Code 3900), and state forests (3 DE Admin Code 402). The proposed amendments follow interim regulations, issued by order of the two Department Secretaries, which went into effect on December 26.
The proposed amendments to the regulations are published in the February 1, 2018 edition of the Delaware Register of Regulations. Public workshops were held in February in all three counties in advance of the March 12 public hearing.
A detailed presentation on the history of the issue, the Supreme Court decision and related cases, and the proposed regulations was presented at the workshops.
The proposed regulations, pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling, state that visitors may legally possess firearms, as allowed by Delaware law, in state parks, wildlife areas and forests (see an online map of areas) unless they are prohibited by law due to a past conviction for a violent crime, active Protection from Abuse Order, or mental health commitment. This would include, for example, trails, unguarded beaches, parking lots, and vehicles.
The proposed regulations prohibit firearms only in certain public facilities and designated areas such as park offices, visitor centers, nature centers, bathhouses, stadiums and facilities while used for events, museums, zoos, stables, educational facilities, dormitories, playgrounds, camping areas, swimming pools, guarded beaches, and water parks. Proposed regulations call for these designated areas to be identified by appropriate signage.
The proposed regulations allow holders of valid Delaware concealed-carry permits to carry within parks, including designated areas, provided only that the permit be produced upon request. The regulations would also allow active-duty law and qualified retired law enforcement officers to carry anywhere within the parks and other areas affected by Supreme Court decision.