Gun ordinance passes Fenwick committee

The Fenwick Island Town Council may consider a new gun ordinance prohibiting the public from carrying firearms inside town buildings, including the police department.

On Sept. 1, the Charter & Ordinance Committee agreed to recommend the ordinance to council. It prohibits possession of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms and explosives in municipal buildings and the police department. That also includes any other building inside town limits where the Town may be conducting Fenwick Town business.

The ordinance does not specifically mention individual Town properties, such as the town park.

State law allows municipalities restrict firearms in municipal buildings and police stations.

This is a gun ordinance that a lot of communities are enacting, using language developed by the State, said Councilman Bill Weistling Jr.

“It is not violating any constitutional right to bear arms,” said Police Chief William Boyden. It just relates to open carry, although people may have a concealed weapons permit.

There must be a conspicuous sign stating the prohibition. The sign may also state: “Persons in violation may be denied entrance to the building or be ordered to leave the building.”

The first offense gets a warning. After that, Boyden recommended violations be a civil offense with a $200 to $1,000 fine per day per intentional violation.

For more extreme violations, police can also take someone into custody for disorderly conduct or brandishing a firearm.

People who accidently violate this law, but who immediately exit the building, will not be guilty of violating this section if they immediately depart.

What if someone was hunting, but then ran an errand to Town Hall with guns in his truck?

“If you take the weapon off and put it in the car,” the firearm is considered to be outside of the building, Boyden said. “We would use common sense” in enforcing this law.

He said he hopes others will use common sense, too.

“I saw a guy with a 9mm in BJ’s. Legally, he was allowed to,” Boyden said. “Listen, I know you have the right to carry, but you have to use common sense,” where there are families with children nearby, he added.

There would be a number of exemptions, including the following: law enforcement officers; deliveries of equipment to law enforcement; firearms safety and training programs; people who hold a valid license pursuant to Delaware Code’s Title 11, §1441 or §1441A; United States employees authorized to carry a concealed firearm; and bank agents and other carriers on the clock, whose duties require them to protect money or other valuables.

The State of Delaware has long prohibited firearms in courts and state buildings. Boyden noted that state legislators are exempt from that when on business in Legislative Hall.

The town council may consider the ordinance at a future meeting. It must undergo a first and second reading, plus public hearing, before it could be adopted.