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Know the Laws: Delaware

UPDATED April 12, 2017

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area if you are dealing with an issue involving firearms.  To find help in your state, please click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

Basic Info and Definitions

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

In Delaware, felonies are serious crimes, punishable by incarceration in state prison and by a fine in an amount the judge believes is appropriate.*  You can see the different categories of felony crimes and their possible sentences on our DE Statutes page. 

A felony under federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.**

* See 11 Del Code § 4205
** 18 USC § 3559

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Under Delaware state law, it is against the law for someone to buy, own, possess, or controll a  firearm (or ammunition) if: 

  • s/he was convicted (in Delaware or elsewhere) of a felony or a crime of violence involving physical injury to another -- it doesn't matter if s/he had any weapon during crime;
  • s/he is a fugitive from justice from a case in which s/he is accused of a felony;
  • s/he was convicted in any court of any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, as defined in Delaware law Title 11, Section 1448(a)(7);
  • s/he was convicted for the unlawful use, possession or sale of a narcotic, dangerous drug, central nervous system depressant or stimulant, or controlled substance;
  • as a juvenile, s/he was adjudicated as delinquent for conduct which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony (Note: the firearm prohibition will last until the person turns 25 years old);
  • s/he is subject to a Family Court protection from abuse order (but not an ex parte order) while the order remains in effect; (Note: this part of the law does not apply to an order issued based on sections (1)(d),(e), or (h) of Title 10, Section 1041;
  • s/he was committed for a mental disorder to any hospital, mental institution or sanitarium;
  • s/he is currently a juvenile (unless it is a handgun for the purpose of engaging in lawful hunting, instruction, sporting or recreational activity while under the direct or indirect supervision of an adult); or
  • s/he is in possession of a semi-automatic or automatic firearm, or a handgun, while possessing a controlled substance at the same time.*

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun.  Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements or if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* 11 Del. Code § 1448(a)(1)-(9)

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