Evanston votes to revise handgun ordinance

August 11, 2008 9:12:13 PM PDT
The Evanston City Council voted 7-1 Monday night to repeal a handgun ban in the city. Previously, an ordinance on the books banned handguns in the town.

The move comes in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a similar handgun ban, saying it was unconstitutional.

Both Morton Grove and Wilmette overturned their handgun bans following the high court's ruling.

After Monday night's vote, Oak Park is now the only remaining Chicago suburb with an outright handgun ban. Officials in Evanston said they may not like the Supreme Court's decision, but it makes no sense to keep an ordinance that's now been rendered unconstitutional.

"It makes no sense to fight an NRA lawsuit that most likely cannot be won," said Ald. Edmund Moran, Evanston's 6th Ward.

That's what officials in the city of Evanston said as they got ready to become the third of four areas of handgun bans to repeal them in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision June 26 that stated such blanket bans are unconstitutional.

One official explained why, unlike Chicago, Evanston decided not to fight.

"I give Mayor Daley all the credit in the world for hanging tough," said Jack Siegel, attorney for the city of Evanston. "But the fact of the matter is, we think they do not have the high probability of succeeding. And we would rather have an ordinance that's enforceable. And we're thinking the ordinance is subject to attack."

Evanston isn't giving up its effort to limit handguns. While the ban is straightforward, stating simply no person shall possess in the city of Evanston any handgun unless the same has been rendered permanently inoperative, the newly drafted ordinance says residents are allowed to own handguns, but only for protection inside their homes.

Siegel wrote the new regulation.

"The Supreme Court opinion made it clear this was not a total ban against local regulation," he said.

But what do the residents think of this new ordinance?

"With proper training and, if that takes a little extra than just being able to qualify for the card, I do believe people have a right to protect their families and their homes," said Laura Hyde.

"I don't see why people need them, and I don't -- I mean, most the times people get shot, accidents in the house, people don't lock them up," said Amanda Lewis.

The new ordinance spells out exemptions to who still cannot own a gun. Those exemptions are those with a criminal record or who have spent time in a psychiatric institution or those under 18, among others.

Aside from reacting to the Supreme Court, Evanston City Council members say they're also responding to a lawsuit the NRA has filed against Evanston and several other communities in the area. "It's interesting to watch the city of Chicago starting to understand that, you know, they could spend their entire city budget," said Ald. Ann Rainey, city of Evanston.

"I would urge a stronger prosecution of criminals. Much like we don't take away cars because people drive recklessly, we shouldn't take away anything from otherwise law-abiding citizens," said Evanston resident Dave Janzen.

Jeanne Bishop lost her sister and brother-in-law more than a decade ago to gun violence and lobbied the council to keep the ban on guns on behalf of the Million Mom March.

"This is not the way you decrease shootings and violence in our communities, not just in Evanston but any place," she said. "Someone who gets hold of a gun in the house could take it and use it."

The NRA was not represented at the meeting Monday night. City council members say by revising the ordinance, they believe, they'll have greater control over the number of handguns in the city.


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