Jul 02 2010
Chicago’s new ordinance demands careful review, and many questions still need to be answered about its implementation. But some things are readily apparent.
First, Heller and McDonald are valuable not just for the laws they’ll remove from the books, but for the work they do convincing legislators not to bother with certain proposals. For every law that might be struck down under McDonald, there might be two or three that now never see the light of day in the first place. Case in point: For weeks, the media reported a proposal to require Chicago gun owners to obtain “gun insurance.” More recently, an idea was floated to limit the number of total firearms a person may own. Neither proposal survived, and it’s not because city pols suddenly like guns. Most likely, in Chicago’s attempt to grapple with the new consequences for violating the right to arms, these ideas were probably seen as not worth the litigation risk. Good.
We applaud Chicago for not adopting the unconstitutional insurance and gun-rationing schemes. Of course, Chicago adopted other measures, not all of which we can approve. This is not a definitive and complete overview, but a sense of where we are.
It remains to be seen how the new training requirement is implemented. It should not be a serious obstacle to gun ownership and could even have some beneficial effect. But if Chicago believes that gun owners should have some range time to develop their shooting skills, how can the city ban ranges? And since there is a right to arms, the gun store ban is about as constitutional as a book store ban.
We never challenged the registration requirement, but our lawsuit does challenge the recurring nature of registration fees. It’s disappointing that this feature of the law wasn’t fixed. On the other hand, there appears to be a new five day grace period to register newly-obtained guns, perhaps solving or alleviating the pre-acquisition registration issue. We’ll see.
Laws banning particular types of common firearms are problematic, but we are intrigued by Chicago’s new take on handgun rostering. A small handful of jurisdictions establish rosters of approved handguns, and ban anything not listed. Such preposterous exercises cannot possibly list all guns protected by the Second Amendment and are all but certain to have an unconstitutional effect. Chicago, to its credit, appears ready to draw a list not of guns that people may own, excluding everything else, but a list of guns people may not own for some specific safety reason. Nobody wants a gun that is prone to misfire or otherwise fails, but if perfectly good firearms are suddenly declared “unsafe,” this will be addressed. Again, time will tell.
Unlike Washington, D.C.’s former “safe storage” law, that went so far as to ban all functional firearms in the home, Chicago’s proposed storage law allows gun owners to have operable guns ready for use in self-defense. But the definition of “home” seems a bit narrow.
The bottom line so far: this is far from perfect, but could have been worse, and the city seems to understand its ability to regulate is not unlimited. We may be close to achieving our litigation objectives in this case, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll ignore other problematic laws or practices. There are natural, practical limits on the scope of any particular lawsuit. Most importantly, we are well on our way to achieving a state of affairs in Chicago where law abiding people can exercise their right to keep and bear arms without major unconstitutional obstacles. The new law, some problems notwithstanding, appears vastly better than the old one. We hope to make it better still.