City officials prepare for ruling on gun ban

May 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It is expected that justices will rule that law unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court issues it opinions on Mondays so on some Monday over the next six weeks, the court will reveal where it stands on Chicago's handgun ban. The justices have already signaled that the 28-year-old ordinance is probably on the way out.

The mayor says if that's the case, the city will be ready with alternatives, but he's not yet ready to detail the fine points.

"We're going to look at many things, but there'll be many topics we'll look at," said Mayor Richard Daley.

While being non-specific, the mayor acknowledges that Chicago is looking at what Washington DC has done since its handgun ban was overturned two years ago.

DC now requires prospective gun owners to provide fingerprints and photographs for background checks. They've got to take classroom and range training, pass a written test, and their gun undergoes a ballistics exam by police.

Chicago may go further by requiring gun owners to show they have liability insurance much like the owner of a car.

"Same thing could be true for a gun and the analogy is that both can create mayhem and destruction, so you need to show you're responsible in case an accident in fact happens," said Prof. Harold Krent, Dean, Kent College of Law.

The mayor will only say that the city is looking at insurance as one possibility. His push Thursday was about first responders. Police and fire, he says, need to know if there are guns in a house before they're called to it.

"First responders have to be able to know that. How many guns are in this house and what type of guns," said Daley.

That's sure to be challenged by gun rights advocates who argue government doesn't need information it could too easily abuse. And further that Washington DC's new gun control laws - variations of which will likely be adopted in Chicago - are bureaucratic hoops meant to aggravate the law-abiding.

In its 2008 ruling on the Washington DC handgun ban, the Supreme Court said the second amendment does allow people to possess a gun in their homes for self defense, but it also ruled that government can pass reasonable gun control laws. What is and is not reasonable is what's at issue.

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