Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Chicago gun restrictions challenged

By Jamey Dunn

A rigid gun control ordinance passed by the Chicago City Council last Friday is already facing a legal challenge.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled early last week against the city’s 1982 handgun ban, the city council moved quickly to approve stringent limits on gun ownership.

Those wanting a handgun in the city would have to register it with Chicago police. Residents 18 to 20 years old would need approval from a parent who is also eligible for an Illinois Firearm Owner Identification Card. The lawsuit filed Tuesday claimed that a provision targeting a specific age group with more requirements is unfair.

To register a gun, individuals must take training both in a classroom and on a firing range. Households would be limited to only one operational gun, which must be kept inside the residence. It would not be allowed in a yard or garage or on a porch. Gun shops and firing ranges would be banned in the city.

The Illinois Association for Firearm Retailers is suing to be able to open gun shops and firing ranges in Chicago. The lawsuit says that both provisions limit gun ownership to those with the means to travel outside the city. “Thus, the ordinance dictates that there can be no place in Chicago where one can obtain the firearms training that the ordinance itself mandates for legal possession of a firearm. This provision impermissibly burdens the right to keep and bear arms of all residents of Chicago and effectively denies that right entirely for individuals who lack the means to travel to a jurisdiction where firearms training is available.”

The four other plaintiffs, all Chicago residents, want to keep more than one operational gun in their homes for self-defense.

"The actions of Mayor [Richard] Daley demonstrate a clear disregard for the rule of law and our nation's highest court," Whitney O'Daniel, executive director of the Illinois Association for Firearm Retailers, said in a written statement.

However Mara Georges, the city of Chicago’s corporation counsel, says the ordinance recognizes individuals' Second Amendment rights while considering the safety of the community as a whole.

“This ordinance effectively balances the right to posses a gun in the home for the purpose of self defense with the substantial risks to public safety that are associated with guns,” Georges said at a Chicago news conference.

This is shaping up to be a protracted legal battle, and it is fair to say that nearly all of the provisions in the ordinance will likely be challenged in court eventually. Chicago could potentially become the test case for which restrictions on gun ownership the courts will tolerate.

Daley, a long-time advocate of the ban, says he respects the U.S. Supreme Court ruling but stands by the new restrictions. “As a civilized society, we have a right, in an industrial society, to protect all of our citizens. … As mayor, I must balance the interests of abiding by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling with my responsibility to protect the people of Chicago and keep them safe. … We believe we have accomplished this in this ordinance,” he said at a Chicago news conference.


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