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Carney signs bills tightening Delaware’s gun control laws

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(The Center Square) — Gun owners in Delaware will be banned from carrying firearms at schools, entertainment venues and polling stations under a pair of bills signed by Gov. John Carney.

One bill, signed by Carney on Friday, prevents all Delawareans, except law enforcement officers, from carrying concealed firearms within 1,000 feet of school “safe zone” or entertainment property. Students caught with weapons in these areas face up to 90 days of expulsion.

Another measure bars anyone except on-duty police officers, security guards and active duty military members from carrying a gun at polling locations during federal, state and local elections.

Democrats pushed the bills through the Legislature earlier this year along with a raft of other gun control measures, arguing that tougher restrictions were needed amid a nationwide uptick of school shootings and gun violence.

But Second Amendment groups have pushed back against the changes, arguing they are unnecessary and punish law-abiding gun owners while sidestepping the issue of illegal firearms.

During the debate on the bills, Republican lawmakers questioned whether the tougher restrictions would prevent school shootings and argued that they would violate the rights of the state’s lawful gun owners.

As with previous proposals tightening Delaware’s already strict gun control laws, the newly signed bills are expected to face a legal challenge from Second Amendment groups.

Last year, Gov. John Carney signed a package of gun control measures that included a ban on the sale of so-called assault-style weapons, an increase in the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, strengthened background checks and limits on large-capacity magazines. It also banned the use of devices that convert handguns into fully automatic weapons.

The sportsman association, a state-level affiliate of the National Rifle Association, filed a lawsuit against the stricter restrictions, arguing they violate Second Amendment rights and Delaware’s Constitution, which guarantees a right to own and carry firearms.

The plaintiffs argued the new law “criminalized” the purchase and ownership of common firearms used by labeling them as “deadly weapons” and making it a felony “for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms.”

Last month, a coalition of 20 attorneys general weighed in on the case, filing briefs asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower federal court decision upholding Delaware’s “assault weapons” ban. The outcome of the case is still pending.

The lawsuit is one of hundreds of legal challenges across the country filed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen’s case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.

The high court’s ruling has prompted reviews of firearm licensing laws in Delaware and other Democrat-led states to tighten their gun laws to further restrict firearm carrying, spurring other legal challenges from Second Amendment groups.

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