BREAKING: Court Strikes Down Chicago’s De Facto Ban on Firing Ranges

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It used to be the case that Chicago banned all firing ranges within city limits. The city’s powers that be detest everything related to firearms, and saw every encumbrance they could place in the path of someone wanting to exercise their Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms as a good thing. A court took issue with that, though, and ruled that the second amendment protected gun ranges as well as gun owners. Chicago quickly came up with a new law that allowed gun ranges — but banned them from 90% of the city for “public safety” reasons. Yesterday, another court ruling further smacked down Chicago’s attempt to infringe on the rights of its citizens by striking that down as well . . .

The latest court ruling was based on a direct challenge to the law, which was brought by the Illinois State Rifle Association along with other residents.

On the matter of banning gun ranges from 90% of the city, the court had the following to say:

Here, the City fails to justify its ordinance restricting firing ranges to manufacturing districts only. Patti Scudiero testified that the manufacturing district ordinance is imposed primarily to avoid two secondary effects associated with the health, safety, and general welfare of Chicago residents. Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 16. Specifically, the City’s bases for relegating ranges to manufacturing districts are that (1) firing ranges attract thieves wanting to steal firearms; and (2) lead-contaminated air released outside a firing range and left unmanaged can contaminate waterways and pose hazards to people if the range is located in a populated area. Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 17, 20. While these are undoubtedly important governmental interests, see United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 748 (1987) (government has obvious significant interest in protecting the safety of its citizens), the City has not sufficiently substantiated a connection between these interests and the ordinance.

Kevin Johnson of the Chicago Police Department testified that the presence of weapons and ammunition inherently endangers public safety; however, both he and Scudiero admitted that they had no data or empirical evidence that any criminal impact would occur due to the presence of a firing range or that it would be lessened by placing ranges in manufacturing districts. Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 76; Johnson Dep. at 169. Neither Scudiero nor anyone from her department researched zoning ordinances on firing ranges in other cities. Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 76. And although the City provided a list of sixteen instances of thefts from gun stores and firing ranges around the country since 2010, it provided no rationale tending to demonstrate that placement within a manufacturing district would preclude theft or reduce criminal impact. Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 78. Additionally, plaintiffs’ expert Lorin Kramer testified that he was unaware of any location throughout the country where crime increased as a result of a gun range in a that location.

In short, the court called bullshit on the City of Chicago’s opinion. The city tried to argue that gun ranges are dirty and dangerous, but failed to provide any single scrap of evidence to support their claim. They tried to bluff their way past the judge, and the judge wasn’t having any of it.

On the other points of the ordnance, specifically the requirements for bullet-proof doors and improved ventilation systems, the judge ruled that those restrictions were constitutional. The judge also ruled that banning minors from firing ranges was constitutional since minors don’t have any rights, but there may be grounds for appeal on that matter.

On balance, it was a win in Chicago. The arguments of city government were once again found to have no basis in fact — the idea that the presence of guns causing crime was once again laughed out of court, and the city’s attempt to infringe on the Constitutional rights of its citizens was rolled back. Again.

Click here for the full ruling.

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