Chicago’s new gun ordinance that replaces gun ban after Supreme Court ruling goes into effect

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chicago’s tough new gun ordinance goes into effect

CHICAGO — An ordinance allowing Chicago residents to own handguns took effect Monday, two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court made the city’s outright ban unenforceable — but people may still be four months and a couple hundred dollars away from actually having one legally.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis said that those who want guns must be fingerprinted, submit to a background check, pay a $100 application fee and then $15 for each gun they register. Police also said they are initially giving themselves 120 days to process applications.

The new law, which officials say is the strictest of its kind in the nation, was pushed by Mayor Richard Daley and passed by the City Council July 2, just a few days after the Supreme Court ruled on that Americans have a right to possess handguns for protection.

Perhaps not surprisingly given how quickly city officials moved, Weis acknowledged that the department did not yet have all the information residents will need to obtain what is called a Chicago Firearms Permit.

For example, under the ordinance residents must take and pass a four-hour class and one hour of training at a gun range, and submit affidavits signed by state-approved firearms instructors. Police said they did not yet have the information on the department’s website about where people can find instructors, but hoped to have it by the end of the week.

Gun rights advocates, who had harsh words for the ordinance when it passed, were quick to criticize the process that the police department is implementing — including a requirement that people without a driver’s license submit a note from an optometrist or ophthalmologist about their vision.

“The purpose of all this is to simply prevent civilian firearm ownership (and) it doesn’t make anybody safer,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “When was the last time local gang-bangers went through a background check and firearm training?”

Pearson said that with the $100 application fee, $15 registration fee for each weapon and the $125 or more it will cost for the classroom and range training, the ordinance adds up to discrimination against poorer residents.

“They are adding expenses to prevent firearm ownership,” he said, adding that he and others have not ruled out a legal challenge on that issue to go along with lawsuits already filed that challenge the constitutionality of various provisions of the ordinance.

He also wondered if requiring residents to hand in their applications and be fingerprinted was designed to discourage law-abiding citizens from owning weapons.

“They keep adding on stuff like that, they just burden you to death,” he said.

Weis defended the process.

“Believe it or not, but we want to make it as easy as possible for people to register their weapons,” he said.

Of the fingerprinting requirement, he said, “It’s the most accurate way of ensuring that someone does not have any criminal history which would bar them from owning that particular gun.”

Police said they do not know if they will be inundated with applications, saying that as of Monday afternoon about 75 people had come to the department’s headquarters with questions about the ordinance and another 150 had called with questions.

They also said that nobody who had guns that were illegal during the ban had contacted the department asking about the 90-day grace period in which they can register the weapons without penalty.

To make sure they can handle the requests, police said that for the next 180 days they will give themselves 120 days to process applications. After that, they will give themselves 45 days.

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