Delaware’s Supreme Court: Public Housing Beneficiaries Can’t Be Deprived of their Right to Bear Arms

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The government doesn’t get to deprive you of a basic right simply because it provides you with housing. That, per the Associated Press, was the effective decision of the Delaware Supreme Court yesterday:

The court unanimously ruled Tuesday that the housing authority’s ban on residents carrying firearms in common areas such as lounges, halls and laundry rooms is not allowed under Delaware’s constitution.

The ruling was first reported by The News Journal of Wilmington.

The case stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2010 that challenged WHA’s outright ban on guns. The housing authority subsequently loosened the policy following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the Second Amendment rights of individuals.

The court based its decision primarily upon the plain language of Delaware’s Constitution (last updated in 1987). As a condition of its existence, the State of Delaware accepts 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.  Art. I, § 20 

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh notes that the “the court noted that this language may justify broader protection than that given by the Second Amendment.” Even so, McDonald got a namecheck in the reasoning:

We recognize that where the government is a proprietor or employer, it has a legitimate interest in controlling unsafe or disruptive behavior on its property. But WHA has conceded that after McDonald, as a landlord it may not adopt a total ban of firearms. Thus, occupying the status of government landlord, alone and without more, does not control. How the property is used must also be considered. Public housing is “a home as well as a government building.” The WHA is different from other public agencies in that it essentially replicates for low-income families services similar to those provided by a private landlord. The individual’s need for defense of self, family, and home in an apartment building is the same whether the property is owned privately or by the government.

Read the whole thing here.

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