- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

DOVER, Del. (AP) - A Delaware judge has sided with state environmental officials in a lawsuit challenging a ban on non-hunting firearms in state parks and forests.

Members of the Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club and the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association who have concealed-carry permits challenged the ban in a Chancery Court lawsuit last year, saying it violates their constitutional right to carry firearms.

The lawsuit was refiled in Superior Court earlier this year after the Chancery Court dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.

On Friday, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the state, saying the regulations do not violate Delaware’s Constitution.

“The regulations do not run afoul of the Delaware Constitution, defendants were not pre-empted by the General Assembly in enacting the regulations, and defendants did not exceed the scope of the authority granted to them by statute in promulgating the regulations” wrote Judge T. Henley Graves.

State environmental secretary David Small said he was pleased with the ruling.

“We do not believe that the unrestricted ability to carry weapons is consistent with our mission to provide every visitor with safe, enjoyable recreational experiences in our treasured and nationally-renowned state park system,” Small said in a prepared statement.

The plaintiffs argued that they should be allowed to carry their guns in parks administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and in forests overseen by the Department of Agriculture.

DNREC regulations state that it is illegal to display, possess or discharge firearms, air rifles, BB guns, sling shots, or archery equipment on any park lands without prior written approval. The agriculture department allows firearms on state forest land only for legal hunting.

Delaware’s Constitution, meanwhile, states 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 judge concluded that the state agencies have an important governmental objective of keeping the public safe from the potential harm of firearms in parks and forests.

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