In Delaware, state officials have sought to expand or strengthen gun control in recent years. In 2022 and 2023, Delaware Governor John Carney signed new gun control laws that:
- Ban the sale of assault weapons
- Increase the age to purchase most firearms to 21
- Strengthen background checks on firearms purchases and transfers
- Limit high-capacity magazines
- Remove gun industry immunity from lawsuits based on reckless or negligent conduct
- Ban guns near school safe zones and polling locations on election day, with limited exceptions
Delaware legislators in the General Assembly continue to pass new gun safety laws in spite of legal challenges and court rulings focused on Second Amendment rights to bear arms. As in other states, gun owners must navigate both federal and state laws that regulate the purchase, sale, possession, and use of firearms. State gun control laws vary from state to state.
Delaware gun control laws prohibit ownership or possession of certain weapons, such as sawed-off shotguns, machine guns, and silencers. Delaware gun laws define an assault weapon as either an assault long gun, an assault pistol, or a copycat weapon. Specific lists of firearms appear in the statute. The ban provides certain exceptions for members of the military, a law enforcement agency, or retired law enforcement officers.
The state imposes no waiting period for prospective gun buyers. However, Delaware provides near-universal background checks on purchases and transfers. An unlicensed seller must seek out a licensed firearm dealer to facilitate a transfer so that a background check occurs. As a result, a purchase or transfer may be denied when the prospective gun owner fails to pass a background check.
Denials may occur due to felony or certain misdemeanor convictions, mental health commitments, abuse orders, and other protection orders.
Delaware requires those seeking to carry concealed firearms and other weapons to obtain a concealed carry license. The Delaware Superior Court issues the licenses with input from the Delaware Attorney General's Office.
Delaware's regulatory scheme for its concealed carry license has remained in place since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022). That case invalidated a New York statute that provided for the discretionary issuance of concealed carry permits when an applicant showed "proper cause."
Delaware does not ban open carry of firearms except in limited circumstances. The Delaware Constitution provides that:
A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home, and State, and for hunting and recreational use.
The Delaware Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to provide a public carry right for firearms in the state for purposes such as self-defense. It found state regulations that banned all firearms in state parks and forests except during designated hunting seasons to be unconstitutional. The public right to carry for self-defense is not absolute, but the government must demonstrate that any regulations are reasonable and necessary for public safety.
Not all states treat gun ownership the same way. The main provisions of Delaware's gun control laws are listed in the table below.
Relevant Statutes (Laws)
It's illegal to own the following firearms in Delaware:
- Firearm silencers
- Sawed-off shotguns
- Machine guns
- Any other firearm which is adaptable for use as a machine gun
- Bump stock, trigger crank, or rapid-fire device
- Assault-style weapons (with exceptions)
There is no waiting period to purchase a gun in Delaware.
Who May Not Own
The following people are prohibited from owning a firearm:
- A person convicted of a felony or crime of violence involving physical injury to another, whether or not having in their possession any weapon during the commission of such crime;
- Anyone committed for a mental disorder to a hospital, sanitarium, or mental institution;
- A person convicted of unlawful use, possession, or sale of a controlled substance;
- A person under 25 years old who was adjudicated as delinquent for conduct that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult;
- A person under 21 years of age (with exceptions, including a person with a concealed carry permit between 18-21 years old);
- Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor for a crime of domestic violence;
- Anyone who is otherwise prohibited under federal law;
- Anyone who is subject to a Family Court Protective Order; and
- A felony fugitive
A license is not required to purchase firearms in Delaware. However, you must have a license for concealed carry.
Concealed Carry License Required?
- Residents: Need to obtain a Concealed Deadly Weapons License (CDWL).
- Non-residents: Need a CCW permit from a state Delaware recognizes. The attorney general may also issue a temporary non-resident CCW permit to people working in the state.
Open Carried Allowed?
Yes, anyone over 18 who can legally possess a gun can open carry. Delaware prohibits open carry in some areas, such as schools.
Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License
To qualify for a concealed carry license, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Show good moral character
- Complete a firearms training course that includes live-fire shooting exercises
- Show five references from residents of your county that attest to your "age, sobriety, and good moral character"
- Publish your application in a local newspaper 10 days before filing your application
- Not be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law (See 11 Delaware Code Section 1448.)
Machine Gun Laws
It's illegal to sell, transfer, or buy machine guns in Delaware.
Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a license is a class D felony punishable by up to eight years imprisonment.
- Possessing a destructive weapon is a class E felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment in most circumstances. Possession only of a bump stock, trigger crank, or rapid-fire device is a misdemeanor on a first offense.
- Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person is a class D felony punishable by up to eight years imprisonment.
Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds
Possessing a firearm or other deadly weapon in a Safe School and Recreation Zone carries increased punishments. If the underlying offense is a class E, F, or G felony, the crime will be one grade higher than the offense normally would be. The maximum penalty is a class D felony punishable by up to eight years imprisonment.
Red Flag Law?
|Yes. Delaware enacted a red flag law in 2018. A family member or law enforcement officer can file a petition for a Lethal Violence Protection Order. Law enforcement can also petition for an emergency order. In either case, the subject of the petition must be served and a full hearing will be scheduled within 15 days.
Universal Background Checks?
|Yes. Purchases and transfers of firearms must include a background check with limited exceptions.
Stand Your Ground Law?
|No. Delaware law provides that one acting in self-defense has a duty to retreat before the use of deadly force, unless in their own dwelling or place of work.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of the state law(s) you are reviewing.
Delaware Gun Control Laws: Related Resources
Talk to an Attorney About Delaware Gun Control Laws
State and federal firearms regulations can be confusing, especially when they overlap. If you have a criminal or civil case involving guns, seeking legal advice may be a good idea. An experienced Delaware attorney in your area can help you understand your rights as a gun owner under federal and state law.