Chicago Enacts New Firearm Law — Again

Lawmakers in Chicago turned their attention to gun control once again recently after months of frequent shootings in the summer of 2012. The Chicago City Council amended the Chicago gun ordinance in late July, the latest in a string of changes that aim to strike a balance between public safety and personal freedom.

Frequent Change in Chicago Gun Law

Chicago lawmakers outlawed the sale and possession of handguns in 1982, and the ban remained in place for nearly three decades before it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. The Court ruled that the ban violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.

After the Supreme Court ruling struck down the ban, Chicago lawmakers hastily passed a new law describing how to obtain a gun permit in the city and who was eligible to receive one. Included in the new law was a provision that denied gun permits to anyone with a previous conviction for unlawful use of a firearm.

A Chicago resident challenged the new law after he was unable to obtain a gun permit due to a prior conviction for a misdemeanor weapons offense. A federal District Court judge struck down the provision in June 2012, finding it to be unconstitutionally vague.

New Gun Ordinance Strikes a Balance

In July 2012, the Chicago City Council amended the city's gun law once again to clarify how an applicant's criminal record affects his or her ability to receive a gun permit. Under the newly revised law, people who have been convicted of violent felonies are permanently barred from obtaining a handgun permit in Chicago, and people convicted of violent misdemeanors are barred for five years. Those convicted of a nonviolent misdemeanor are not barred from gun ownership.

The latest version of the Chicago gun ordinance was drafted to specifically address the deficiencies that led earlier versions of the law to be struck down. By removing the ban for nonviolent misdemeanors, Deputy Corporation Counsel Mike Forti told the Chicago Sun-Times, the City Council has attempted to more closely balance the seriousness of a prior offense with an individual's constitutional right to bear arms, making it less likely to be overturned.

Striking Down on Violent Crime

Edward Burke, Alderman of Chicago's 14 th District, describes Chicago's ordinance as one of the toughest municipal gun laws in the nation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. However, Burke urged the United States Congress to enact stricter federal legislation on the issue, pointing out that "local jurisdictions can do just so much."

With Chicago's homicide rate spiking by nearly 40 percent in recent months, law enforcement is increasing its focus on enforcing the city's gun ordinance and keeping illegal firearms off the streets. People facing weapons charges in Chicago are encouraged to seek advice from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help them understand the charges against them and fight for the best possible resolution to their case.