Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is asking the City Council to enact a revised handgun ordinance in the wake of Monday's ruling by the US Supreme Court that jeopardized the city's 28-year-old ban on handguns.
The mayor says the revised ordinance will stand up in federal court, should it face a challenge. Early reaction from gun rights advocates is that they are relatively pleased with Chicago's latest proposal for regulating handgun ownership within city limits, with some caveats.
The Chicago handgun ban, the last of its kind in the nation, fell into a legal danger zone this week, after the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to every jurisdiction in the US. The ban now faces a review by the Seventh US Circuit Court that will test its validity in light of the high court's decision, but legal experts, and Mayor Daley himself, expect that the ban cannot stand.
Daley wants the City Council “to move quickly to consider and enact” the redrafted ordinance, he told reporters Thursday. The council is expected to meet Friday to debate the measure and take a vote.
Gun rights advocates are “cautiously optimistic” about the proposal, says Alan Gura, a lawyer in Alexandria, Va., who was on the winning side in the latest Supreme Court case and in a 2008 case the resulted in the overturning of a handgun ban in Washington, D.C.
“This is a far more measured and careful response than what was rumored, and we appreciate that,” says Mr. Gura.
New rules of gun ownership
The new ordinance would establish a multitier process requiring gun owners to register their firearms with the Chicago Police Department, attend classroom and firing range training, and obtain both a special city permit and a state firearms identification card.
The fees associated with those requirements are not inconsequential, says Gura. The city permit, for instance, would cost $100 and would require renewal every three years. Each handgun would need to be reregistered every year at $15 each. Penalties for failing to register a firearm could cost owners up to $10,000 and jail time.
It is normal to charge fees for registering guns, says Gura. But “when fees are imposed on a recurring basis, then it becomes an annual tax on an exercise of a constitutional right,” he says. “We don’t think that’s appropriate, so that can be a sticking point with us.”
Rifle owners have long complained about Chicago’s annual registration process, which can take up to six months each year.
“It can take so long … no one can get through all the hoops,” says Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. Mr. Pearson says he is tracking what form of the ordinance the Chicago City Council approves on Friday, to determine if it needs to be challenged.
“I’m glad we’re seeing some movement on it. We’ll have to test the constitutionality of [what they] are proposing later,” he says.
A ban on gun shops questioned
The proposed ordinance also prohibits assault weapons and gun shops. Gura considers the latter ban “extreme” and says it is no different than if the government decided it wanted to ban the sale of books it determined were not in its favor.
“To say there can be no commerce in something that is explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution is troubling,” he says.
Daley says all aspects of the ban are constitutionally sound because they focus on gun ownership in the home, which is what the high court declared to be protected by the Second Amendment. Guns are “for self-defense and self-defense only,” he added, and if people were really committed to gun safety, they would start by not owning guns.
“Although people have a constitutional right to have a handgun in their home … the best way to avoid firearm-related injuries and deaths is to not have a gun in the home in the first place,” he says.