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Chicago’s gun law rewritten after previous ban overturned

Updated: August 27, 2012 11:12AM

While the Colorado movie massacre resurrects the national debate over reviving the assault weapons ban, Chicago is setting its sights lower — by rewriting a local gun law under legal fire.

The City Council agreed Wednesday to rewrite the ordinance to satisfy a federal judge who dealt Chicago’s gun law the latest in a string of legal setbacks.

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.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan 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 Wednesday, the City Council 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.

Prior to the final vote, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) used the Colorado movie massacre to appeal to the U.S. Congress to finally tackle the political hot potato that gun control has become.

“When is the United States Congress gonna figure out that local jurisdictions can do just so much?” Burke asked.

“We’ve got, probably one of the toughest municipal gun laws in the nation. But, to think that some unbalanced person can get on the internet and order a drum that holds 100 rounds and obtain that over the internet with no regulation, no restriction whatsoever is preposterous. How can we as a nation permit that to continue?”

Despite years of adverse legal rulings, Deputy Corporation Counsel Mike Forti has predicted that the latest version would pass legal muster.

The court “focused on whether or not there could be a lifetime ban for non-violent misdemeanors. What we’ve done here is not only address specifics of the Gowder case, but go slightly beyond it to [say] that all non-violent 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,” Forti said.

“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.”

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.

Forti agreed.

“We have, from the beginning, 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.”

Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) has 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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