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Chicago: Unable to Ban Dealers, Emanuel Seeks to Regulate Them Out of Existence

Friday, May 30, 2014

This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued his crusade against the city's lawful gun owners by putting forth legislation severely regulating gun stores within the city.  Foiled by the courts in an earlier attempt to ban gun sales outright in the Second City, the mayor's new proposal is an attempt to circumvent the court's ruling and institute a de facto ban on sales.

On January 6, Judge Edmond E. Chang of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that Chicago's total ban on firearms dealers was unconstitutional.  In his opinion, Chang noted that the Second Amendment right "must also include the right to acquire a firearm."  Chang went on to add, "Chicago's ordinance goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms, and at the same time the evidence does not support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes that the ordinance tries to serve."

Following the decision, Emanuel expressed his disagreement with Chang's ruling and requested that the court give the city six-months to "create a comprehensive set of restrictions on the sale of firearms." The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel "instructed city attorneys 'to consider all options to better regulate the sale of firearms within the city's borders.'"

The result, submitted to the Chicago City Council on May 28, is a transparent attempt by the city to regulate dealers out of existence, under the guise of complying with the District Court's ruling. Various lowlights of the ordinance trumpeted by the Mayor's Office include:

• Quarterly inventory audits
• Handgun rationing
• Warrantless access by law enforcement officers to store records
• A 72-hour waiting period to purchase handguns, and a 24-hour waiting period to purchase rifles and shotguns

And that's not all. For instance, a Chicago firearms dealer license would be required not only for FFLs, but for those "engag[ing] in the business of… repairing firearms or making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms."

In addition to holding a firearm owner's identification card (FOID), all store employees would have to attend "an initial training session on the best practices for the responsible sale of firearms to be conducted by the police department."  Once that's done, they would still need to "complete a refresher training program once every three years." Despite the FOID card requirement, which necessitates its own background check, dealers would redundantly be required to "initiate a state and FBI fingerprint-based record search of every authorized employee to verify the person's criminal background."

Under the proposal the location of firearms dealers would be heavily restricted, particularly considering Chicago's densely-populated urban setting. The language states, "No license shall be issued for a location that is within 500 feet from any pre-existing primary or secondary school or any park owned or leased by any unit of local, state or federal government, measured from property line to property line."

The legislation even seeks to micromanage the way in which a customer could inspect a firearm. It would restrict gun handling to those with a FOID card and require the firearm to be "secured with a trigger lock or plastic tie."  Potential buyers would have difficulty comparing models (not to mention trigger pulls), as the measure would require dealers to restrict customers from handling "more than one firearm at a time."  It states additionally states, "Prior to permitting a customer to handle second a firearm, the first firearm shall be returned to a locked display case or other secure storage location."

Most Orwellian, the ordinance would require that gun sellers, "record every sale or transfer of a firearm or ammunition by video surveillance in such a manner as to clearly capture the facial features of the purchaser or transferee."  Further burdening privacy, dealers are required to keep "a copy of the purchaser's FOID card and photo identification for a period of not less than 10 years from the date of purchase of the firearm."

In the unlikely event that an intrepid gun dealer attempts to open up shop in the Windy City, privacy concerns and higher prices resulting from compliance costs could still drive customers elsewhere.  Clearly, the goal of the proposed ordinance is to allow the city to claim technical compliance with the court's ruling, while making the running of a successful gun shop all but a practical impossibility.

As with many forms of gun control, Emanuel's effort would disproportionately burden the city's poor and working class.  Those with means and access to private transportation will simply travel to another part of Illinois to purchase firearms.  Less economically secure Chicagoans, who often suffer most from higher exposure to violent crime, will be forced to pay the high prices associated with Chicago's onerous scheme, while also having their privacy violated.

Following the announcement of the proposal, Richard A. Pearson of NRA's Illinois state affiliate, the Illinois State Rifle Association, was reported by the New York Times as stating that "he expected the restrictions to be deemed unconstitutional in court."  Chicago certainly hasn't fared well recently in cases such as Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers v. Chicago, Shepard v. Madigan, and Chicago v. McDonald.  Here's hoping the City Council members will come to their senses, reject the proposal, and save Chicago's taxpayers the burden of defending yet another overreaching, politically-motivated gun control law in court.

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