Can Rahm Beat Back Pro-Gun Lobby and Federal Rulings to Keep Firearms Out of Chicagoan's Hands?

gun ordinance

Unless City Hall comes up with a new – and legally sound – gun ordinance within six months, Chicago could have local gun shops opening all across the city. A federal judge has ruled the city was going too far by outlawing gun stores from operating in the city.

The ruling not only made it legal for individuals to open gun shops in the city, but also legal for individuals to conduct private gun sales as long as the buyer is not a minor and presents an identification card to the seller.

With Mayor Rahm Emanuel announcing that he has chosen not to resist a federal ruling, this recent legal overturn is considered a major setback to one of the nation’s least gun-friendly cities. For years, federal judges have struck down Chicago’s restrictive gun ordinances one by one. It for decades banned the use of handguns, assault weapons, high-capacity magazines – and was the last city to allow residents to have handguns in their homes.

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File photo/Mayor Rahm Emanuel

“It will take about three to four years before we see gun stores in the city,” said Richard Pearson, the executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, an organization behind the challenge against the city’s gun ordinance, “Even though the judge ruled that the ability to sell and purchase guns was a right, it didn’t compel the city to open gun shops.”

With U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang allowing the city time to appeal, Pearson’s prediction may prove a reality if City Hall does not devise a new ordinance that can curb gun sales in Chicago. Emanuel has pledged a rewrite of the ordinance, but exactly what that will entail is unclear.

Both gun rights advocates and gun control advocates said that they saw the decision ruling against the city’s gun shop ordinance as “not surprising” and “expected.”

Colleen Daley, the executive of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said while she respects the Second Amendment, increasing gun accessibility to a city prone to gun violence isn’t necessary.

Consider that Chicago tallied 400 murders last year – down about 100 from the previous year and roughly half what it was a generation ago – but that’s still 400 or so lives stolen from a city shamed nationally for it’s rampant violence.

“We have more gun shops than McDonalds in Illinois so now we’re going to add that potentially many more to Chicago,” Daley said.

Gun control advocates have recently faced a series of major setbacks. Four years ago, in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled that Chicago’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional. In 2011, the city allowed limited handgun ownership, and most recently in the cases of Moore v. Madigan and Shepard v. Madigan, the court compelled the city to come up with a conceal-carry law.

Questioning how this ruling will impact communities already vulnerable to gun violence, Daley said a great step for Emanuel to take would to be to start licensing individuals who will have guns for sale.

“The issue at core is really not about speculating whether this ruling will increase or decrease gun violence, but making that our city will start licensing these individuals so if there are bad firearm dealers out there we are able to effectively shut them down,” said Daley.

Compared with other cities, Chicago – often dubbed the murder capital – is hardly that, with many cities far outpacing the Chicago in per-capita homicide rates. And, when put next to the to the gun violence homicide rate of 2012, gun-related homicides last year dropped about 15 percent, according to the Chicago data portal.

But on Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel conceded to 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin’s point that the slide in homicide and shooting rates mean “crap” if the city can’t ensure overall safety to its residents.

As of Jan. 11, there has been five gun related homicides, with one of them being a 13-year-old accused of killing his sleeping 16-year-old cousin over an Xbox argument.

Shootings like these that especially involve youth worry longtime residents of Chicago neighborhoods that are bloodied with gun-related incidents.

Maria Rodriguez, a 54-year-old resident of Roseland neighborhood said she would consider buying a gun to protect her children and herself.

“You can’t help but live in fear when people get shot almost every month,” said Rodriguez, “It would be useful to have a gun just in case especially in neighborhoods like this.”

But Daley said having more guns on the street would contribute to the violence epidemic in Chicago.

“There’s one intend to use guns and it is to kill,” said Daley, “I disagree with those who say that having easier accessibility to guns isn’t going to change anything.”

A 2010 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reflected that about 31,000 people were killed from firearm related violence across the nation.

But an approximate number of how many people have been injured or injured, second hand, by gun violence is unknown and may as well as be five times the total number of fire arm deaths, said Michelle Gittler, who treats survivors of gun injury at Chicago’s Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.

Gittler said gun violence has become a “public health crisis” – a motto also championed by CureViolence, formerly Ceasefire, which treats violence as an infectious disease that can only be blunted with preventative measures and intervention.

“We’re not trying to sove the problem of guns [alone] – rather the constellation of what contributes to firearm violence.”

With the CDC officially defunding all firearm-related research in 2010, Gittler argued that the avenues to having a productive dialogue on how to positively affect the gun mortality rate in Chicago are, for now, seemingly closed.

With the National Rifle Association backing efforts to shut down the CDC’s gun violence related research, a string of efforts have successfully shut down this area of research. And in 1996, Congress took away $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget that was spent on gun violence research and prohibited the agency from spending money on research that would “advocate or promote gun control.”

Then in 2003, Congress banned the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing data about guns used by the public, which stunts others from learning about the black market for guns.

Seven years later, Congress prohibited doctors from gathering data about their patient’s use of gun use. And the following year, Congress blocked the National Institutes of Health from conducting gun research.

With these efforts to shut down scientific research on firearm violence, Gittler said it’s highly unlikely that the dialogue on gun violence as a public health issue is going to begin anytime soon.

“Really it doesn’t matter what the judge rules because that’s not the problem,” Gittler said, “Clearly the problem exists in spite of what’s legal so I don’t think the ruling is relevant I think the time and money, expertise and conversation can be used somewhere else.”

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