Article Courtesy of
Caesar Rodney Institute Blog
Limited Government and Free Market Views in Delaware
Bipartisan group of 21 Delaware lawmakers signs Amicus Brief
supporting NRA’s stance in key U.S. Supreme Court gun-rights
November 24, 2009 by leewilliamscri
Attorney General Beau Biden, Rep. Mike Castle, Senators Ted Kaufman and Tom Carper
did not sign similar briefs
By Lee Williams
Nearly 1,000 lawmakers from all 50 states – including 21 Delawareans – have signed a
“friend of the court” brief supporting the National Rifle Association’s position that an
individual’s rights to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in the Second Amendment, should be
incorporated against the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
“It’s vitally important that elected officials protect the Constitution, and you can’t pick and
choose the parts of the Constitution you like or don’t like,” Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover
South, said of his decision to sign the NRA’s brief.
“Regardless of how people feel about firearms, the Constitution clearly protects an individual’
s right to own firearms,” Bonini said. “As legislators, we took an oath to defend the
The NRA’s brief was filed Monday with the Supreme Court in the case of McDonald v. City of
“We are pleased that such a large group of state legislators and other officials agree that
our Second Amendment freedoms should apply to all Americans, not only those who reside
in federal enclaves,” NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris W. Cox said in a written statement. “Gun
owners across the country should be proud of the stand that their lawmakers are taking on
this crucial effort to restore and protect the gun rights of law-abiding Americans everywhere.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.’s near total handgun ban in the
landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller. The justices found that the right to bear arms
granted in the Second Amendment is an individual right.
However, since the District is a federal enclave, the court still had to consider whether the
Second Amendment protections applied outside of D.C.
Now in McDonald, the court will determine whether the Second Amendment protections are
incorporated against the states and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment.
The case was spawned by Chicago’s restrictive gun laws, including a near-total handgun
ban, which have been in effect for 27 years.
The court’s decision could force many jurisdictions to change or remove their firearms laws
Dover attorney John Sigler, a CRI board member and immediate past-president of the NRA,
said in Heller, the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment protections that
provide an individual the right to keep and bear arms predate the formation of our country.
“It was merely codified by the founders in the Second Amendment so that future generations
would not forget this fact,” Sigler said. “In addition, the Supreme Court in Heller recognized
the fundamental right of all human beings to self defense.”
Because the District of Columbia is a federal enclave, Sigler pointed out, the impact of the
case was limited.
“The McDonald case presents to the court the question of whether the right to keep and
bear arms contained in the Second Amendment is like the right to free speech, the right to a
free press, the right to a jury trial, prohibitions against unlawful search and seizure, that are
all applicable to the states, in protecting the fundamental rights so well understood by the
founding fathers,” Sigler said.
The impact of the decision in Delaware may not be as great as in other states and
jurisdictions, because of safeguards incorporated into the state constitution.
“Having said that, it is entirely possible that Chicago, New York, San Francisco and many of
the states of the union – particularly New Jersey – could find many of their gun laws to be
unconstitutional because they infringe upon the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and
bear arms for lawful purposes,” Sigler said.
The amicus curiae brief signed by the state lawmakers was accompanied by a similar brief
submitted by 251 members of the U.S. Congress and 58 U.S. Senators.
In addition, 38 attorneys general have signed a brief supporting the NRA’s position.
Neither Attorney General Beau Biden nor any member of Delaware’s congressional
delegation signed these briefs.
Biden did not immediately return calls seeking comment for this story.
Sen. Joseph Booth, R-Bridgeville, first learned of the McDonald case from the NRA.
“I support the NRA. They don’t take elected officials down the wrong road,” Booth said.
“There’s an old adage where they talk about SUVs killing people. It’s actually people in
operation of a motor vehicle, or in operation of a gun, where we have concerns.”
Signing the brief were: Delaware Auditor of Accounts R. Thomas Wagner, Jr., State
Senators Bruce Ennis, Colin Bonini, Gary Simpson and Joseph Booth, State
Representatives Tom Kovach, Richard Cathcart, Robert Gilligan, Michael Ramone, William
Carson, Pam Thornburg, William Outten, E. Bradford Bennett, Robert Walls, David Wilson,
V. George Carey, Ruth Briggs King, Gerald Hocker, Daniel Short, Clifford Lee and John
Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational
organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability,
and efficiency in Delaware government.