Law allows gun ranges in city but under rigid conditions
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org July 6, 2011 11:56AM
Updated: July 6, 2011 6:27PM
The City Council on Wednesday reluctantly agreed to end a contradiction in the law that requires gun owners to complete a firearms training course but bans the gun ranges that provide such training.
To avoid an adverse court ruling, aldermen put aside concerns about ammunition sales and rushed through Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ordinance allowing gun ranges to operate in Chicago, but only in areas zoned for manufacturing and under rigid conditions.
Two federal lawsuits have been filed challenging the ban on gun ranges in a city whose residents are now required to complete a firearms training course in order to obtain a gun permit.
If the city waits for the ban on gun ranges to be overturned, it would be in the unenviable position of having the court dictate an ordinance that could be far less restrictive.
That’s not an outcome Emanuel was prepared to risk.
Instead, he introduced an ordinance directly to committee, a rarely-used shortcut normally reserved for emergencies, and pushed it through the full council the following day.
It would allow gun ranges, but only with special use permits that require public hearings.
Chicago ranges would be confined to areas zoned for manufacturing, but that’s only the baseline. Gun ranges would also be prohibited within 1,000 feet of a school, park, place of worship, day care center, liquor store, library, museum, hospital or residential district.
The mayor’s ordinance also mandates that Chicago gun ranges be enclosed and mandates the type of construction. They could operate only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
With those restrictions, aldermen unanimously approved the ordinance. But that doesn’t mean they were thrilled about it. Far from it.
“We don’t want them to be de-facto sales for ammunition, where anyone can walk in, fire five shots and walk out with 200 rounds of ammunition that could be re-sold on the street. … That’s ammunition that could be used against citizens or police,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) told reporters earlier this week.
“We’re in the summer months when crime escalates. We’re very concerned. … We want to make sure these are safe and well-regulated. … I don’t know that anyone wants to have gun ranges in our city. … But [for] law-abiding citizens who want to be trained to protect their families — whether it’s with a long-gun or a handgun — there needs to be facilities for them to do it.”
Although Chicago gun ranges would be free to sell ammunition for use only at the facility, Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, said, “What I’m worried about is the restrictiveness of it and our ability to enforce.”
The National Rifle Association branded the ordinance so restrictive, it invites another lawsuit.
“This is protected constitutional activity. If the city wants to continue to deny it, as they have with their revised gun ordinance, then obviously they haven’t learned anything from court rulings and our tenacity,” said Todd Vandermyde, Illinois legislative liaison for the NRA.
“The city is already on the hook for big-time legal fees in the McDonald case [that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Chicago’s handgun ban]. When you have a multi-million dollar deficit, you should be trying to find ways to minimize litigation instead of inviting more litigation.