Is Chicago’s New Gun Law Legal?

BULLET PROOF: After a series of court challenges, will the city’s firearms ordinance pass legal muster?

Illustration by Dan Page

With near-daily shootings across Chicago this summer—not to mention the tragic July rampage in Aurora, Colorado—grabbing headlines recently, guns and gun laws are top of mind. And as it happens, just around the time of the multiplex massacre, Chicago aldermen had begun to redraft the city’s firearms ordinance.

As you may know, the city outlawed the sale and possession of handguns way back in 1982. (Not that the move was very successful in disarming Chicagoans: Police here confiscate an average of about 10,000 firearms each year.) In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the handgun ban, saying it was in violation of the Second Amendment.

So local legislators rewrote the law, spelling out how Chicagoans could obtain gun permits and who could get them. Soon after, the city got sued by a resident who was denied a gun permit because of a prior misdemeanor weapons conviction. That lawsuit prompted the U.S. District Court judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan to overturn a portion of the ordinance in June, ruling that the section of the law that denied gun permits to anyone already found guilty of “an unlawful use of a weapon that is a firearm” was unconstitutionally vague.


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It appeared that Chicago had been stymied yet again in its efforts to keep guns off the streets. But a close reading of Der-Yeghiayan’s decision—and a conversation with Steve Patton, the city’s corporation counsel—reveals that things are not so dire.

To hear Patton tell it, this “narrow challenge” to the law was no big deal. (The city even chose not to appeal the decision.) In the wake of the Supreme Court decision two years ago, he says, these sorts of legal disputes are to be expected as people on both sides of the issue try to interpret the subtle meanings of the ruling. Nor does he expect any significant repercussions from three pending lawsuits related to the city’s ban on gun stores, its regulation of gun ranges, and its restrictions on the number of handguns allowed in a home. (Decisions on those cases may come this year.)

In late July, the City Council amended the ordinance to eliminate any ambiguity. The revised law permanently prohibits violent felons from owning guns, and anyone convicted of committing a violent misdemeanor faces a five-year ban. People found guilty of a nonviolent misdemeanor may still apply for a gun permit.

Patton says he doesn’t anticipate any additional lawsuits, and he vows to “aggressively defend” the city’s gun law. “We’re committed to achieving the greatest extent of gun control that’s lawfully possible while still complying with the Second Amendment,” he says. “It’s something we can do in the city’s overall effort [against] gun violence. It’s a plague, and we’re doing everything we can to fight it.”


Illustration: Dan Page



2 years ago
Posted by Machine

Kudos to the writer for a fairly balanced article. We don't see enough of it. I'm on the side of arming law-abiding citizens to at least keep people from being helpless victims. Clearly, gun control in Chicago hasn't worked AT ALL. It has the some of the worst crime and the strictest gun laws. Anybody figuring this out yet? Things aren't as simple as people think.

2 years ago
Posted by BHirsh

Chicago's "efforts to keep guns off the streets" a) haven't worked, and b) only keep "good" guns off the street, which ought to tell you something.

Chicago is against private ownership and use of firearms entirely as a fundamental part of its political ideology, and only permits it to the extent that it absolutely has to. Left to its 'druthers, there would BE no legal guns in the city, at all.

You Chicagoans really need to vote out the ninnies you have elected to serve in Springfield, and put in people who believe in our First Principles and your individual liberty. Then, you need to push Springfield to enact, by a super majority to prevent veto, carry laws that respect the right as mandated in our Constitution.

The truth is obvious and unavoidable - areas that have lawful carry in public see violent crime rates go down, and places like Chicago that obstinately ignore this truth suffer the consequences in real time.


2 years ago
Posted by ExNuke

"It appeared that Chicago had been stymied yet again in its efforts to keep guns off the streets."
No, it appears that Chicago has been stymied in it's efforts to keep the victims helpless and the thugs and politicians armed to prey on and protect against the peons having any uppity ideas. After all if there was no crime, violence and corruption there would be no reason for Rham to take more power and "do something" about the problems he and Daley created.

2 years ago
Posted by librarylord

To say an armed population does away with crimes is rubbish. Detroit has conceal and carry and crime has not gone away.

Here is an article:

2 years ago
Posted by RadicalHonesty

I live in a high crime area. I have been robbed at gun point in broad daylight. My home has been broken into and my family put in danger. These gun laws have not gotten guns out of the hands of the people that victimized me and my family and I'm sure this is the case for many other Chicagoans. The handgun ban was lifted yet the city of Chicago wants us to Jump through flaming hoops to exercise our rights given to us by the 2nd amendment . The people that have guns for illegal reasons more than likely got their guns illegally. How is making it more difficult for law abiding citizens to own guns legally helping crime rates to go down? Its not! Criminals still have guns and they know the average Joe does not, that leaves the citizens of Chicago very vulnerable. I think the law makers should spend some time in my neighborhood without their armed guards and see what its like.

1 year ago
Posted by catainjr

I cant imagine living in a place where you couldnt own a firearm where people are robbed and murred with guns 24-7 it doesnt make any sense and whom ever it was that created these laws must have been ignort or crazy or both!we have a sheriff department in West tn where i live there are only 3 officers on duty and any given time, but many people here have gun carry permitts and carry them, and the ones that dont have guns at home, and the unoffical stance of the sheriff about people carrying guns with out a permitt if they are good honest citzens the peace officer will look the other way, we dont have much crime n the form of robbery agaisnt the person. Armed robbys here are not very often and bank robbery is almost nill, the banks that have been robbed ususally the robber get caught before they can get 10 miles away,I haope the laws can be changed in you state where the honest Joe can use a firearm against the crimainals and send them to an early grave, Just my thoughts JR from Tennessee

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