If Chicago's gun control law is overturned, what next?
The Supreme Court will decide soon if Chicago's controversial handgun ban is unconstitutional. Both sides say such a decision would spur a slew of challenges to gun control laws elsewhere.
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"Usually when there's a gun, there's something else," says the 15-year veteran, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak publicly. "I'm all for the right to bear arms, but handguns have one purpose: shooting people. As soon as they make them legal again, we're going to see a lot more incidents."Skip to next paragraph
If the high court puts an end to Chicago's handgun ban, it's likely that the city "will have to look to more permissive forms of handgun regulation," says Robert Batey, a professor at Stetson University's College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla. "There will probably be efforts in 'how far can we go' in restricting handguns," he says.
New York City's handgun rules might offer a clue. There's no outright ban, but the city and the police operate a permit system. To own or carry a handgun there, applicants must show during a rigorous screening process that they face an extraordinary threat in daily life, such as those that can confront celebrities or Wall Street financiers.
Lawrence Rosenthal, a professor at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif., who filed a court brief in the Chicago case for the US Conference of Mayors, calls New York's approach "innovative" in showing the courts a sensible approach to legalizing handguns.
"In the big cities, plagued as they are by poverty and violence and criminal street gangs ... we think there are enormous problems there with the liberal availability of firearms," Mr. Rosenthal says. "New York City actually provides a powerful example of what you can accomplish to keep guns off the streets."
But if Chicago were to go the way of New York, that would simply – and unfairly – persecute legitimate gun owners, says Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association, which is a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. He complains about what he sees as onerous rules for rifle owners in Chicago, such as re-registering their firearms every year. "You're at the total mercy of the bureaucracy of the city. And they're not very merciful," says Mr. Pearson.
Chicago officials have been mum about what exactly they will do in the event of a rebuff by the Supreme Court.
"We will carefully review the Supreme Court opinion as well as all of our options at that time," Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Department of Law, wrote in a recent e-mail.