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7 Jan, 2014 16:29

Judge rules Chicago ban on gun sales is unconstitutional

Judge rules Chicago ban on gun sales is unconstitutional

A United States federal judge ruled Monday that a law in Chicago that limits guns from being sold within city limits is unconstitutional.

US District Judge Edmond E. Chang said in his decision that an attempt by leaders in the Windy City to stop the total sale and transfer of firearms within Chicago, Illinois was in violation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment — the right to keep and bear arms.

City officials said the prohibition was necessary to curb violent crime in Chicago, where 1,864 people were shot and 415 were murdered in 2013. Judge Chang disagreed, however, and said other methods could be implemented to keep those numbers low.

In his ruling, Chang wrote that the city’s attempt to bring down crime figures was likely well intentioned, but not constitutionally sound.

“The stark reality facing the city each year is thousands of shooting victims and hundreds of murders committed with a gun,” Chang wrote. “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.”

“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,” Chang continued.

Under the ban in question, city law provided that “no firearm may be sold, acquired or otherwise transferred within the city, except through inheritance of the firearm.” Plaintiffs composed of Chicago residents certified to own guns but unable to easily do so sued Mayor Rahm Emmanuel with the help of a coalition of professional firearm dealers distraught over being unable to sell in city limits.

According to Chang, the city could implement other policies to curb gun crime while not infringing on the Second Amendment-protected rights of Chicagoans. By making it illegal to even give guns as gift to family members, he said, the city ordinance went “well beyond federal and state law.”

“If the city is concerned about reducing criminal access to firearms, either through legitimate retail transactions or via thefts from gun stores, it may enact more appropriately tailored measures,” he wrote. “Indeed, nothing in this opinion prevents the City from considering other regulations—short of the complete ban — on sales and transfers of firearms to minimize the access of criminals to firearms and to track the ownership of firearms. But the flat ban on legitimate sales and transfers does not fit closely with those goals.”

Mayor Emanuel "strongly disagrees" with Chang’s decision, according to a statement released to the media late Monday.

"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," the statement said. "We need stronger gun safety laws, not increased access to firearms within the city."

National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde told Fox News that Chang "ruled in favor of the Second Amendment,” and by doing so “shows how out of step and outrageous Chicago's ordinances really are."

“The city is going to have to allow retail gun shops to operate and they are going to have to allow individuals to transfer firearms in normal transactions,” Vandermyde added to the Chicago Tribune. “So the question now is: How much more money does Rahm (Emanuel) want to spend fighting it?”

“That's the NRA's game plan. They keep filing suits and filing suits to chip away laws and get to their ultimate goal of a complete armed citizenry,” responded Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence campaign director Mark Walsh.

“All too often the narrative is that the NRA is this monolithic machine that is winning everywhere, but that really isn't the case,” he said. “There has been the fear mongering by the NRA and gun manufacturers, but it does not necessarily translate.

“What we have seen is people, not just in Illinois but across the country, are successfully passing laws aimed to keep gun violence down.”

Judge Chang issued a stay with his ruling in anticipation of an appeal being filed by the city.