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Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.

Similarly, Delaware prohibits the purchase, ownership, possession or control of a firearm or ammunition by any person:

  • Convicted in any jurisdiction of a felony or a crime of violence involving physical injury to another, unless that felony conviction has been expunged;
  • Committed for a mental disorder to any hospital, mental institution or sanitarium, unless such person can demonstrate that he or she is no longer prohibited from possessing a firearm;
  • Convicted of the unlawful use, possession or sale of a narcotic, dangerous drug or central nervous system depressant or stimulant as those terms were defined prior to the effective date of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in June 1973, or of a narcotic drug or controlled substance as defined by Delaware’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act;1
  • Who, while a juvenile, was adjudicated as delinquent for conduct which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a felony, unless and until that person has reached his or her 25th birthday;
  • Who is a juvenile, for handguns only (unless the juvenile possesses the handgun for lawful hunting, instruction, sporting or recreational activity while under the direct or indirect supervision of an adult);
  • Subject to a Family Court protective order (other than an ex parte order), but only for so long as that order remains in effect or is not vacated or otherwise terminated;2
  • Convicted in any court of any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or
  • Who knows that he or she is the defendant or co-defendant in a criminal case in which he or she is alleged to have committed a felony under federal law or the law of any state, and who becomes a fugitive from justice by failing to appear for any court proceeding pertaining to that felony for which proper notice was provided or attempted.3

Any person prohibited solely as the result of a conviction for an offense which is not a felony is not prohibited from purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm or ammunition if five years have elapsed from the date of his or her conviction.4

Delaware also prohibits any person from selling deadly weapons (including handguns) “made especially for the defense of one’s person” to an intoxicated person.5


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  1. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, chapter 47.[]
  2. This provision does not apply to a contested order issued solely upon Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 1041(1)(d), (e), or (h), or any combination thereof.[]
  3. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448(a).[]
  4. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448(d).[]
  5. Del. Code Ann. tit. 24, §§ 901, 903.[]