The decision on Monday by federal judge Edmond Chang in Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers v. Chicago to throw out Chicago’s ban on gun sales comes as no surprise, but it illustrates the continuing efforts of the city’s political leadership, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to deny the Second Amendment rights of its residents and to evade a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Judge Chang of the Northern District of Illinois declared unconstitutional municipal ordinances that banned “virtually all sales and transfers of firearms inside the City’s limits” with the exception of those received through inheritance and that prohibited the “construction and operation of gun stores” (the judge stayed his opinion while the decision is appealed). This was just the latest skirmish in the judicial war being waged in Chicago (and Illinois) over the Second Amendment.
The Supreme Court invalidated Chicago’s ban on the ownership of handguns four years ago in McDonald v. City of Chicago. In 2011, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs in another case against the city, Ezell v. City of Chicago, were entitled to an injunction against part of the new Chicago gun ordinance that the city council passed only four days after the McDonald decision. It required one hour of range training as a prerequisite to lawful gun ownership, yet prohibited all gun ranges in the city. The range ban was deemed “a serious encroachment on the right to maintain proficiency in firearm use, an important corollary to the meaningful exercise of the core right to possess firearms for self-defense.”
In 2012, the Seventh Circuit was forced to act again in Moore v. Madigan, when it threw out as unconstitutional an Illinois state ban on carrying a weapon outside of a home or business. The court held that the Second Amendment’s core right of armed self-defense extends past the four walls of the home and into the public. This was the last ban on concealed carry in the nation.
Judge Chang recognized that one of the fundamental duties of government is “to protect its citizens.” But on the other side is “another feature of government: certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside of government’s reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment.” As anyone with any common sense would agree (except, it seems, some legislators in Chicago), that Second Amendment “right must also include the right to acquire a firearm.”
The judge found that all the reasons the city used to justify the ban on gun sales and gun dealers did not support the claim that such a ban was necessary to protect the public or reduce gun violence. In fact, the judge systematically took apart all of the city’s arguments, concluding that Chicago’s “lack of compelling justifications” for these ordinances rendered them unconstitutional.
The fact that law-abiding residents could travel outside the city to “acquire a firearm” did not make the ordinance constitutional, any more than abridgement of the First Amendment right to speak in a particular location is acceptable just because “it may be exercised in some other place.”
The real question now is whether the city has finally learned its lesson and will stop implementing unreasonable roadblocks to legitimate gun ownership. It is time for the city to acknowledge the Second Amendment rights of its residents and quit wasting taxpayer money on preventing them from protecting themselves.
- Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.
Originally appeared in the National Review Online