Chicago City Council votes to allow gun ranges

July 6, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Chicago City Council approved the opening of gun training ranges Wednesday, the same day a federal court ruled that the city cannot continue to ban them.

For the last year, anyone wanting to register to own a gun had to travel outside the city for required training.

It was a year ago this week: In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision throwing out Chicago's handgun ban, the City Council passed what it called the Responsible Gun Ownership Ordinance. Opponents sued, saying that it was loaded with hoops and hurdles that hardly made it responsible.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday -- in part - ruling that one restriction in the ordinance had to be changed.

When it was written a year ago, critics of Chicago's new handgun ordinance said it made no sense that the city would require handgun owners to train on a firing range when firing ranges remained outlawed within city limits.

Wednesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. And, knowing that it would probably lose on the firing range issue, the City Council zipped through an ordinance that will allow for the creation of indoor firing ranges in Chicago.

"There are a lot of stringent requirements; you can't have an outdoor range, you can't have a portable range," said Alderman Jim Balcer, the Council's public safety committee chairman. "There has to be a building requirement met. There has to be zoning requirements, environmental requirements, so there are a lot of restrictions."

There are a variety of zoning restrictions on where the indoor ranges can be located.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was clear the no-firing-range provision of the ordinance wouldn't stand legal muster, so the Council hand to move to fix it.

"I could have waited for the decision, but based on the reading of where we thought the case was going, I wanted to make sure the rest of the ordinance did not get dragged down as relates to the gun ranges," said Emanuel.

Beyond the gun range revision, the Chicago handgun ordinance is being challenged on other constitutional grounds.

While the ordinance allows registered homeowners to keep them in their homes for safety purposes, it bars them from having the gun on a porch or garage. The Seventh Circuit ruling Wednesday creates a level of legal review that could make other portions of the Chicago ordinance vulnerable.

"Possession inside the home, but not your porch, not your garage?" said gun rights attorney David Sigale. "I think it is a point courts will look at and find, Does that really meet the constitutional standard for the government to be able to infringe on that right?"

Sigale is one of the attorneys for the plaintiff in the case that produced Wednesday's court ruling on the firing ranges. Within the court's ruling, Sigale says, is a level of review that places a higher burden on the city in defending the gun possession restrictions it has written into its ordinance.

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