Your NPR news source

Gun Bans Tumbling in Suburbs, but Not in Chicago

SHARE Gun Bans Tumbling in Suburbs, but Not in Chicago
Gun Bans Tumbling in Suburbs, but Not in Chicago

The day after the Supreme Court ruled that Washington D.C.'s ban on handguns was unconstitutional, the National Rifle Association filed lawsuits against cities and towns with similar ordinances. Several of those communities are in the Chicago area, including Morton Grove which, in 1981, became the first municipality in the country to make it illegal for people to have handguns in their homes. Now, with the recent ruling and legal pressure from the NRA, Morton Grove, like other small communities, is dropping its ban. Nearby Chicago doesn’t plan to let go so easily.

There was surprisingly little fanfare as the mayor of Morton Grove led last night’s discussion on doing away with the village’s historic handgun ban.

KRIER: Does anybody want any comments from the residents on this. Peggy?

FRIEWER: Peggy Friewer, resident of Morton Grove, 5848 cleveland street.

Peggy was the only resident of this small town to speak in favor of keeping the ban.Well, there were two other people, the Bishop sisters, but they’re not actually from Morton Grove.

Jeanne and Jennifer Bishop have been vocal gun control advocates since tragedy struck their family.

BISHOP: A high school kid got ahold of a handgun and blew away our, three family members. My sister her husband and their baby.

The public comment lasted only a half an hour and then the board voted to repeal the nation’s first handgun ban.

The Bishop sisters missed the vote.

They had left shortly after speaking to go to the city of Evanston where they gave a repeat performance.

BISHOP: This city council is heroic in its leadership and its concern for gun violence prevention and for safe communities and you all are already my heros on that front.

Evanston is just a few miles east of Morton Grove, and last night, they too were considering getting rid of their gun ban.

Some council members were sympathetic to the Bishop sister’s message but said the city doesn’t have the money to fight the NRA on a lawsuit they think they’d lose.

A few miles south in Chicago, a big city with deep pockets, it’s a different story.

DALEY: The Supreme Court and Congress has no obligation to keep our country safe. It falls on the backs of mayors and your local officials.

That’s Mayor Richard Daley.

He says the city will fight the NRA despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that Washington D.C.'s gun ban is unconstitutional.

While the D.C. and Chicago bans are similar Chicago plans to argue that the Supreme Court ruling affects only federal jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia.

Timothy O’Neill teaches law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He says the city’s legal strategy goes back to the reasoning behind the Bill of Rights.

O’NEILL: The fear that the founders had was that the federal government was going to start taking away rights from individuals. They didn’t have any fear that Virginia, or Massachusetts, or New York, their home states would do this.

So Chicago will argue that, because of the bill of rights, the federal government can’t restrict people’s right to bear arms, but local governments still can.

O’Neill points out there are a number of amendments that aren’t binding on local governments.

For example, under the Fifth amendment, the federal government can charge people with a felony only under a grand jury indictment but state’s have a choice.

O’NEILL: They can use grand juries. They can use preliminary hearings. It is one part of the bill of rights that has never been applied against the states.

O’Neill says another part of the bill of rights that the U-S Supreme Court has never said the states have to protect is the 2nd amendment right to bear arms and Chicago’s attorneys are hoping that omission will leave them the wiggle room they need to keep the city’s handgun ban in force.

If they’re successful, smaller communities like Evanston, Illinois that don’t want to fight the NRA, might change their minds and try to bring back handgun bans.

The Latest