The Delaware Superior Court sided with a local gun rights group this fall, ruling that deer hunters in the state can hunt with semi-automatic rifles despite the state environmental authority’s ban. The court ruled that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which was sued by the gun-rights group, overstepped its authority by preventing hunters from using those weapons by straying from state law and failing to follow the required procedure that would allow the agency to independently create its own rules in this case. DNREC has updated this season’s hunting guide online to comply with the ruling after the court in November ordered the agency “to remove the offending language from the 2019/2020 edition, and any subsequent editions.” DNREC is disappointed by the decision and is evaluating its options,” wrote a DNREC spokesperson in an email to Delaware Online/The News Journal about the ruling.
The Nov. 18 ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, against DNREC and its secretary, Shawn Garvin, in November 2019. “You have to follow the statute,” said Jeff Hague, president of the DSSA, which is the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association. “Just because you don’t agree with the statute, you don’t have the right to go in and write your own language and interpret it the way you want absent direction from the General Assembly.” The lawsuit followed a 2018 law change that allowed certain rifles for deer hunting. The lawsuit pointed to DNREC’s hunting guide from last year, which leaves out semi-automatic rifles among the guns that deer hunters can now use as a result of the bill. The guide also said deer hunters can’t use a rifle of a certain caliber if a handgun of that caliber doesn’t exist. DNREC’s most recent hunting guide for this season contains the same language. [full article]