With 100,000 gun owner IDs, 3,500 apply for permits

June 30, 2011 3:52:56 PM PDT
One year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Chicago's handgun ban, some of those seeking to legally own a gun in the city say the process to obtain a permit is cumbersome.

In the year since the Supreme Court decision, the Chicago Police Department says it has received roughly 3,500 applications from Chicagoans who want to possess a handgun in their homes. 98 percent are approved.

However, in Chicago, over 100,000 people have firearm owner identification (FOID) cards.

"There are 100,000 FOID owners in Chicago alone and there's only 3,500 people who've applied for the handgun permit," said gun owner Colleen Lawson. "Does that strike you as a bit of a discrepancy?"

Colleen Lawson is one of the plaintiffs in the historic Supreme Court decision overturning Chicago's handgun ban. She owns a gun, took the mandated training, and has her new Chicago firearm permit, all required by a new city code that Lawson and others contend is nothing more than a de facto handgun ban.

"They came straight out and said in the meeting, 'we want to make this as tough as possible,' and they've done that," said Lawson.

Chicagoans who want to own a handgun must go through a criminal background check, take a four-hour classroom course on firearms, and spend an hour on a shooting range. However, there are no shooting ranges in Chicago, because the city doesn't allow it.

Applications and fingerprints require a personal appearance. There is only one place where that can be done: a city office on S. Kedzie, open only on weekdays.

There was a long line Thursday, because Thursday was the deadline for city stickers.

So, who has gone through the gun registration process?

"We have lawyers. A lot of lawyers have come and taken the class," said Andre Queen of Fidelity Investigative Training.

Queen is a certified firearm instructor. The type of class he teaches costs $125. The Chicago firearm permit costs $100, and there are also application fees.

"Traveling outside the city to go to a range, paying range fees, gun rental, then to have to pay the fees to the City of Chicago, that adds up, and unless you've got some financial means, it's cost-prohibitive," said Queen.

Critics say the economics of the ordinance make it very unfair. It is under legal challenge on several fronts.

Police want to know, for the benefit of first responders, who has a gun in the home. Opponents of the ordinance say it is so filled with hoops that many are buying guns without paying for the permits and the classes.

Just a year in, there is not yet a way to statistically measure the basic question: Has the law make us safer or less so?

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