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Chicago aldermen rework city’s gun law to satisfy federal judge

Updated: August 21, 2012 6:27AM

Chicago aldermen agreed Thursday to reload the city’s gun law in hopes of satisfying the federal judge who shot it down.

The latest version of the firearms ordinance was rushed into place in 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Chicago’s 28-year-old handgun ban, the latest in a series of setbacks to the city’s efforts to control the proliferation of firearms.

In a ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan left the ordinance largely intact but shot down the section used to deny a man a gun permit because of a prior misdemeanor conviction.

Der-Yeghiayan ruled that section “unconstitutionally void for vagueness” and said it violated Shawn Gowder’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

On Thursday, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest rewrite.

The new version would permanently bar anyone who has been convicted of a felony violent crime and impose a five-year ban on anyone convicted of a misdemeanor violent crime.

Deputy corporation counsel Mike Forti predicted the latest version would pass legal muster.

“He focused on whether or not there could be a lifetime ban for nonviolent misdemeanors,” Forti said. “What we’ve done here is not only address specifics of the Gowder case but go slightly beyond it to [say] that all nonviolent misdemeanors do not constitute a ban to getting a gun permit. So we’re quite confident it’s gonna easily satisfy the court’s ruling.

“It’s very serious if someone has committed a violent misdemeanor. What we tried to do is balance the seriousness of those crimes with an individual’s right to exercise their 2nd Amendment [rights]. We thought a permanent ban might be too excessive but that a five-year ban was reasonable.”

Forti noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that overturned Chicago’s handgun ban specifically pointed out that “felonies may be a basis for depriving people of the ability to exercise” their right to bear arms.

Emanuel has called tougher gun laws a pivotal piece of Chicago’s crime-fighting strategy, and his efforts to reduce a nearly 40 percent spike in homicides.

“You cannot have just more cops on the street. It’s part of a comprehensive strategy you’ve heard me talk about…Our crime strategy is putting more police on the street and getting kids, guns and drugs off the street,” the mayor said on the day after the latest legal setback.

On Thursday, Forti agreed. The rewrite is expected to be approved by the full City Council next week in what’s expected to be its last meeting before a summer recess.

“We have, from the beginning since [the now-overturned handgun ban] tried to implement reasonable gun laws to try to, in part, address the serious violence we’re all facing,” he said. “If we did away and wiped clean and had no gun laws, crime would increase, and we would have a more violent society.”

The only point of contention Thursday was raised by Ald. Nick Sposato (36th). He complained about the requirement that 18-year-olds — who can vote, fight for their country and sometimes live alone without parents — get a “parental signature” before qualifying for a gun permit.

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