Updated: Aug 2
Be at least 18 years old to purchase shotguns or muzzle loaders
Be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun, rifle or other firearm.
Possess a valid Delaware state issued ID
Be able to pass a criminal background check
Delaware gun laws make purchasing a gun in Delaware more confusing for prospective buyers, but this article will discuss in detail the above requirements of gun purchases, transfer of a firearm, storage requirements, and what firearms are legal and illegal to own, as many of these rules were altered by recently passed gun control laws. If you are a prosepctive buyer that does not know Delaware gun laws, then you should start with the 7 gun safety basics for first time gun buyers.
What do you need in order to buy a gun in Delaware?
(1)You must be at least 18 years old to purchase shotguns or muzzle loaders
and at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun, rifle or other firearm. (2) You must also possess a valid Delaware state issued ID and (3)be able to pass a criminal background check.
How old do you need to be to buy ammunition in Delaware?
The guidelines to buy ammunition are similar to buying a gun - you must be at least 18 years old to purchase ammo for shotguns or muzzle loaders and at least 21 years old to purchase ammo for handguns and rifles.
Federal Law vs Delaware Law
While Federal Law is the same across the country, state laws pertaining to firearms are a complicated patchwork across the country. The State of Delaware has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but if you want to purchase a gun, all hope is not lost! Although there are some strict gun laws in place, Delaware state law does allow residents to purchase a gun.
Delaware's requirement are more stringent than Federal Law, which requires firearm buyers to be atleast 18 years of age, unless they are purchasing a handgun, receiver or "other" firearm, in which case they must be 21 years of age. Federal law does not require background checks when the seller is not a firearms dealer, also known as private sales.
The basic gun purchasing requirements in Delaware are a bit confusing, mostly because they are more strict than other states and add different layers of requirements based on the type of gun you are going to purchase and your age. Next, we will discuss the individual requirements for gun purchasing in Delaware.
Under Delaware law, the age restriction for the purchase or transfer of a firearm in Delaware, is at least 18 years old. If you are 18 years old but less than 21, you can only buy or have transferred to you, shotguns or muzzleloaders.
Delaware State law requires buyers to be at least 21 years old to buy a rifle, handgun, receiver or "other" firearm.
Regardless of the type of firearm, all buyers must possess an official state ID like a driver's license or a photo I.D., and pass a federal background check using the NICS system. The background check is performed by the dealer when you are making the purchase. Additionally, background checks are required for all private sales, if you are a prospective buyer, expect to complete the private sale with the seller at a gun shop, which will perform the NICS background check for a fee, usually around $30.
If you are 21 you may purchase or have transferred to you all types of legal guns in Delaware. But remember, there are additional opportunities and restrictions that we will cover in the “What Can I Legally Own?” and “What Can’t I Legally Own?” sections below.
Identification is required for prospective buyers to purchase a weapon in Delaware, which is on par with other states in the country. In Delaware, there are two primary forms of state-registered ID that you can use to purchase a firearm.
First, prospective buyers can use a valid, up-to-date driver's license. If you drive, you have to have one of these so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people. If you don’t drive, there is a second option for you, a state-issued Photo ID. If you don’t have one of those two forms of I.D. then you are out of luck.
Background Checks are required for all firearm sales and transfers in Delaware, with some exceptions
Delaware requires nearly all firearm purchases and transfers to occur at a federal firearm licensed (FFL) dealer. When you go to an FFL they can run the legally required background check and if everything checks out, the sale or transfer of a firearm can proceed. Any store that sells firearms should have an FFL, and they would get shut down pretty quickly if they didn’t, so if it has been open for a while, it has an FFL.
If you don’t need a background check run, the FFL should let you know. Some exceptions include replica firearms, transferred to certain family members, and guns made before 1898.
It is important to make sure that you are buying the firearm for yourself, and not for another person, as that would constitute a straw purchase. A straw purchase is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A federal background check is required with all gun purchases, which should come as no surprise because this is required in all 50 states. What’s different about Delaware is that although not federally required, the state also mandates a background check for all firearm transfers, with some exceptions.
Convicted felons can not purchase or have possession of firearms in Delaware. Additionally, if someone has been convicted of a misdemeanor that caused physical injury, including domestic violence or controlled substances then at least 5 years will have to have elapsed before the individual can purchase have possession of firearms . If a felon is in possession of a firearm, they can be charged with possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, which is a class F felony.
Although it can be a hassle, background checks do give sellers and transferors the peace of mind of knowing that they aren’t giving a gun to someone dangerous. They also don’t usually cost very much and are quick to run.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a system operated by the FBI that searches for information that would disqualify someone from owning a gun. The NICS system is used to conduct background checks on all gun buyers in the United States.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony, or has a history of mental illness, to purchase a gun. It is also illegal for anyone who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order, or who is a fugitive from justice, to purchase a gun.
The NICS system is also used to conduct background checks on private gun sales in Delaware. This means that if you are a prospective buyer, you will need to complete a background check with the seller at a gun shop. The gun shop will then contact the FBI to conduct a background check on you. The background check will cost around $30.
Delaware's FTAP System on the way
In late June 2022 Delaware legislature passed the Firearm Transaction Approval Program (FTAP) which will be implemented within one year. This is a state program that incorporates the federal NICS background check with state-level databases. This system has not yet been implemented. state-level. (As of August 2023, the FTAP system has not been implemented and will likely be another 6 months until implementation.)
Concealed Carry Deadly Weapons License
While Delaware is technically an open carry state, open carry often draws a lot of attention and is not the best route for carrying a firearm on your person in public. With open carry, you are letting people know that you have a firearm, which can both deter crime, but also make you a target. By having a concealed deadly weapon instead of open carry, when in a life or death situation, you can have the element of surprise on your side. If you are set on open carry, check out our 12 tips for Delaware Open Carry. We recommend you get your Delaware concealed deadly weapon permit, and have an article detailing how to get your Delaware CCDW permit, as well as our top choices for the best concealed carry guns on the market in 2023.
Besides the obvious advantages of being legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon, in Delaware, if you have a concealed carry deadly weapons license you also will receive an exception to one of their newest gun laws - the ban on magazines that hold more than 17 rounds. Delaware concealed deadly weapon permit holders are exempt from this law and may buy and possess magazines greater than 17 rounds.
DE CCDW permit holders exempt from magazine ban
If you are a concealed carry deadly weapons license holder in Delaware and between the ages of 18 and 21 you can own and possess a rifle or handgun in addition to shotguns and muzzleloaders. Otherwise, you will have to wait until you are 21 years old to purchase or possess without supervision, a rifle or handgun.
There are many requirements for obtaining a concealed carry license in Delaware. A few of them are, you must be 18 years old or older, complete a firearm training course with live-fire training included, have five references vouching for moral character, pass a background check, and have never been convicted of a felony or violent crime or the use or sale of narcotics. The Prothonotary office handles Delaware concealed deadly weapon permit applications, the Delaware Superior Court website has concealed deadly weapon permit requirements and application process, reference form, etc.
If you are determined to own a rifle or handgun before you turn 21 then this is your only option unless you are an active member of the Armed Forces or a qualified law enforcement officer/police officer.
Delaware Secure Storage Requirements
The State of Delaware also has a secure storage requirement law. This law essentially makes parents criminally liable if their children have an accident with or use one of their guns for a crime. How to properly store firearms in your home.
In essence, if you are a parent, you need to keep your guns locked in a safe, gun cabinet, or with a trigger locking device and never tell your children where you keep your key.
Additionally, gun owners are liable and can be charged with a misdemeanor if a minor, felon or other person prohibited from possessing a firearm steals or uses one of their firearms. Again, this can be avoided if you properly store your firearms in a gun safe or cabinet, or keep a trigger lock on the weapon.
You may also keep your firearms in a place that a “reasonable person would believe to be secure”. With all of that said, you can not be charged if someone breaks into your home or vehicle and steals your firearm.
What Can and Can’t I Legally Own?
After reading all of the rules and requirements above you may be wondering what types of firearms you can legally own in Delaware. Delaware is quite restrictive in the types of firearms you can own.
"Assault Weapons" banned in Delaware June 2022
Check back for future articles discussing this.
If you already own one you do not have to get rid of it, but you will not be able to purchase another.
Magazines that hold more than 17 rounds are also banned...
Delaware also has a high-capacity magazine ban. Delaware defines a high-capacity magazine as a bullet-feeding device that is capable of holding 17 or more rounds. This limits people on full-size pistols that they can purchase but manufacturers are making state-compliant pistols now that these types of laws are becoming more common.
NFA Items in Delaware
Interestingly, Delaware has also banned silencer ownership. These devices are incredibly nice when shooting at the range or even while shooting large caliber rifles while hunting and can save your ears from irreparable damage. Sadly, Delaware doesn’t see it this way and has banned them outright.
Fully automatic weapons are also banned in Delaware, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise because they are banned in all states with only a few exceptions on ownership.
All NFA items are banned in Delaware, with the exception of Short Barreled Rifles, which are banned in WIlmington. SIlencers are banned in Delaware.
So now you may be wondering what you can own. Most hunting firearms are still legal to own as well as self-defense shotguns with standard magazines, and handguns with magazines that hold less than 17 rounds. You can also still own muzzleloaders.
Extreme Risk Protection Order
Delaware has an “Extreme Risk Protection Order”. This order allows law enforcement officers and family members to request a court to order an individual to give up their guns for up to one year if they believe that individual is a risk to society or themselves.
Additionally, law enforcement officers can file for an emergency “Extreme Risk Protection Order” that lasts for 15 days but can be extended for an additional 45 days.
An extreme risk protection order is typically used when family members or law enforcement are concerned about an individual's mental health or if they believe an individual poses a threat to themselves or the public.
How Do Delaware’s Gun Laws Affect Hunting?
Delaware's gun laws are some of the strictest in the country, but that doesn’t mean they should keep you from hunting. It is still entirely possible to easily go hunting in Delaware.
One of the biggest issues with House Bill 451, is that it makes it difficult for hunters under 21 years old to go hunting with a rifle. If you are under 21 years old and want to go hunting with a rifle, you must be supervised by someone over 21 years old.
This seems a bit strict and will most certainly hamper some hunters' efforts. I started hunting alone in my early teens, and for rifle hunters in Delaware, this is no longer an option. That said, hunters under 21 years old but older than 18 can use a shotgun or muzzleloader without supervision.
If you are younger than 18 years old and hunting with a firearm, you must be supervised by someone older than 21. Again, this is quite strict considering you can get full driving privileges at 17 years old. Delaware's laws make it illegal for anyone to hunt with a firearm under 18 years old without supervision.
Delaware's hunting laws consider a youth hunter to be 15 years old or younger and require an adult 18 to 21 years old to accompany the youth while hunting. That said, if you are between 16 and 17 years old and don’t have someone to supervise you, then you have one option left, you can go archery hunting by yourself.
Hopefully, these laws don’t impact youth trying to get into hunting. I know I wouldn’t be a happy camper if I was a teenage hunter living in Delaware and couldn’t go hunting by myself or with my buddies.
Hopefully, this article has helped clear up some of the laws and makes it easier for you to understand. Delaware's gun laws are some of the strictest in the country and navigating them can be difficult. That said, all hope is not lost for gun ownership and you can still legally own most guns if you are 21 years old or older.
If you are still unsure of a concealed carry law you can contact the DOJ Special Investigations Unit. You can find their contact information at this link. If you have a more general inquiry about purchasing or transferring a firearm you should contact a licensed FFL in Delaware. You can find FFL dealers in Delaware by clicking on this link,
The laws and associated requirements described in this blog are the interpretations of the writer, and should not be used for legal decisions. This is not legal advice. The information in this blog is meant to make it simpler to understand Delaware gun laws, but if you are making legal decisions, you should review the laws for yourself. There are links above that will take you directly to law and government websites containing information about gun laws in Delaware.