Thursday, December 18, 2008

Federal Judge Upholds Chicago's Handgun Ban

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES - A federal judge today upheld Chicago’s 1982 handgun ban as Mayor Daley disclosed plans to strengthen it by following Washington D.C.’s lead.

In a 5-to-4 decision in June, the Supreme Court overturned the D.C. handgun ban on grounds that the Second Amendment establishes the right to own a handgun for personal self-defense.

Hours later, the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association filed lawsuits seeking to overturn handgun bans in Chicago, Morton Grove, Evanston and Oak Park. Wilmette and Morton Grove subsequently repealed their handgun bans. Chicago held fast.

Today, U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur (Carter Appointed) rewarded the city for hanging tough, rejecting a pair of lawsuits challenging Chicago’s handgun freeze.

The Daley administration was pleased, but “not surprised” by the decision. City attorneys are well aware that the fight goes on.

“We believe this decision will ultimately end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Law Department spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle.

“This is a victory for us, but, it’s just one step in what is probably going to be a long battle.”

Todd Vandermyde, Illinois legislative liaison for the NRA, called today’s ruling a temporary victory for the city.

“It was expected. We went to court knowing it’s going to take a higher court’s ruling. As Judge Shadur enumerated in his decision, he’s still bound by the precedent set by the 7th Circuit [Court of Appeals]. He wasn't going to stick his neck out on an issue that the 7th Circuit hasn't changed its mind on," he said.

"City taxpayers are going to pay more money in legal fees for a fight they will ultimately lose. The city is only postponing the inevitable. They won this round. But if this thing goes to the Supreme Court, we will prevail. The court laid out a very compelling case with a lot of foundation for an individual's right to bear arms," said Vandermyde.

In his ruling, Shadur appeared to caution the city that its victory might be short-lived.

"This court should not be misunderstood as either rejecting or endorsing the logic of plaintiff's argument. It may well carry the day before a court that is unconstrained by the obligation to follow the unreversed precedent of a court that occupies a higher position in the judicial firmament," the decision stated.

Earlier this week, the D.C. Council replaced its overturned law with new regulations that require gun owners to receive five hours of safety training and register their firearms every three years.

Gun owners in the nation's capital would also face criminal background checks every six years.

At a news conference on school violence that preceded Shadur’s ruling, Daley hinted strongly that he intends to follow Washington’s lead.

The mayor said he plans to hold a gun conference early next year to consider current trends in gun violence and how they might be addressed within the legal parameters established by the nation’s highest court.

“I believe the court’s ruling presents us with an opportunity to continue our efforts to enact reasonable, common sense gun laws that put conditions on gun ownership and sales and that also puts limitations on where guns are permitted, all of which the court’s ruling allows,” the mayor said.

Asked point-blank whether he intends to use the city’s sweeping home-rule powers to mimic the D.C. changes, Daley said, “That’s what we’re looking at. You’re not gonna rush into something so quickly. That’s why you have a conference and listen to people.”

In the days and months that followed the Supreme Court’s landmark gun ruling, Daley also talked about strengthening Chicago’s handgun ban in a way that protects police officers.

If the nation’s highest court says it’s OK to keep guns in your home for self-defense, what’s to prevent those guns from being used against police officers and firefighters who respond to a domestic quarrel or other emergency, the mayor asked.

“What does a policeman do when there’s a domestic battery [call] and they’re both armed? Do they enter the home or apartment or do they wait outside?” Daley asked reporters earlier this year.