Judge rules Chicago must allow gun sales

January 8, 2014

In a move that could have far reaching implications for gun retailers nationwide, a U.S. District Court in Illinois has ruled that Chicago must lift its ban on the sale of firearms in the city.

U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang said a city ordinance that bans any transfer of a firearm within city limits except in an inheritance was "unconstitutional," adding there was no evidence Chicago's restriction on the legal purchase of firearms protected citizens from crime.

"Chicago [bans gun sales] in the name of reducing gun violence. That is one of the fundamental duties of government: to protect its citizens," Chang wrote in his ruling. "But on the other side of this case is another feature of government: certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside government's reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment."

"This right must also include the right to acquire a firearm," Chang added.

The original suit was brought by the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and three other plaintiffs.

The court's ruling comes after the city was forced by a Supreme Court decision to lift its ban on concealed carry in 2010. In 2013, the city's crime rate dropped nearly 20 percent and posted its lowest homicide rate since 1965, according to the 2nd Amendment Foundation, a pro-gun rights group.

Chicago still suffered the highest homicide rate of any city in America last year.

While the judge stayed his ruling to allow time for the city government — headed by mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff — to mount an appeal, the move was hailed as a major success by gun rights advocates.

"This is an important decision because the court recognized that the lawful commerce in firearms ... is protected by the Second Amendment," said National Shooting Sports Foundation General Counsel Lawrence Keane in a statement.

But some are cautious about the ruling, worrying that even though Chicago must allow gun sales, the city could pass zoning laws and other ordinances that tie retailers in knots.

That's a similar situation to Washington, D.C., which was forced to lift its gun ban in 2008 after the Supreme Court ruled the 2nd Amendment protected an individual right to own a firearm. Since then the city has enacted zoning rules that make it virtually impossible to open an FFL dealer location; there is only one licensed gun seller in the Nation's Capital whose office is in the city police headquarters.

And city residents are still barred from carrying a firearm outside the home.

In a statement after the ruling, Chicago Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said the city would make it tough to get a gun in the Windy City.

"Every year Chicago police recover more illegal guns than officers in any city in the country, a factor of lax federal laws as well as lax laws in Illinois and surrounding states related to straw purchasing and the transfer of guns," Drew said. "We need stronger gun safety laws, not increased access to firearms within the city."