Delaware Public Media

Delaware agencies hold public hearing on guns in parks

Mar 12, 2018

The Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture held a public hearing Monday to get input on finalizing regulations allowing guns in parks and conservation areas. Some Delawareans say they don’t go far enough, while others say they’re too restrictive.

Interim regulations went into place last month. They allow visitors to open carry in most park areas, but prohibit guns in areas like zoos, campgrounds and swimming pools. Delaware residents with concealed carry licenses can carry in all areas of state parks and forests after showing a license to park officials.

Sherry Marsico said the state should make it tougher to bring guns in. She says a minority of gun owners are imposing their will on residents that want to visit gun-free state parks.

“Why am I making room for the 5.2 percent of the population who wants to carry a gun into our parks," she said. "Where am I in this? Is it not Delaware’s responsibility to ensure my safety when I go into a public park?”

Some gun owners also raised issues with the proposed regulations. They say prohibiting residents of other states from carrying in parks and allowing law enforcement to do background checks on those bringing guns limits their Second Amendment rights.

William Bell of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association took issue with several regulations, including a restriction on people from other states - like his son who lives in Missouri - to carry a gun in Delaware parks when he visits.

“You’re putting him in a vulnerable state in my opinion and I figure anyone who can’t carry like in a campground area, with all the things that have happened recently with no gun zones, people are unable to protect themselves,” he said.

Bell also objects to allowing law enforcement to run a background check on a park visitor with a gun.

Members of the Sportmen’s Association were part of the legal challenge that succeeded in striking down a previous ban on guns in state parks.