New gun range rules approved by City Council
Darnell Hopkins, 63, of South Holland shoots a gun during a class at Glenwood Gun & Pistol Range in Glenwood on Jan. 5, 2016. There are currently no commercial gun ranges in Chicago, but a new proposal easing some of the restrictions on gun ranges in the city might change that. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a more lenient set of rules for the potential location of gun ranges in the city, after one key alderman said they would be allowed anywhere if officials didn’t act.
After a dissertation on the issue by Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, the council voted without dissent to allow gun ranges in in business, commercial and industrial areas, provided the owners get a special use permit — which requires officials to consider objections from people and businesses in the surrounding area. No commercial ranges currently exist in Chicago.
The action came after the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down previous, stricter provisions that only allowed ranges in isolated industrial areas that covered just 2 percent of the city. The court determined that the city could not prove assertions that gun ranges attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead contamination and carry a risk of fire.
“The court ordered virtually all of Chicago’s zoning restrictions as they applied to shooting ranges out of the zoning ordinance, leaving therefore absolutely nothing in place in Chicago to regulate firearm ranges,” Burke said. “The result of that situation is essentially . . . similar to that long-running TV series that some of us are old enough to remember. It was entitled ‘Naked City.’ "
“So the ordinance before us today is not a relaxation of relevant restrictions, because there are no relevant restrictions. To the contrary, this ordinance imposes zoning and operating restrictions in response to the mandate of the federal court," Burke said. "It imposes those restrictions right up to the land that was drawn in the sand by the federal court.”
Burke’s speech came after two aldermen last month deferred action on the new zoning regulations, contending that the courts didn’t have a good grasp of the city’s concerns about guns and violence.
Since then, a few minor changes were made to the proposal: gun range owners will no longer have to have state-issued Firearm Owner Identification Cards, although their employees will, and eliminates set hours of operation in favor of individual decisions in each case.
“It makes clear that this ordinance is a necessary non-discretionary measure to restore gun range regulation in Chicago,” Burke added. “And I quote from the ordinance. . . . ‘This ordinance is not an expression of policy. Its purpose is to conform the municipal code to binding judicial precedent.’”
“A no-vote is in effect a vote to leave the city with absolutely no meaningful zoning restrictions at all of gun ranges — truly a return to the Wild West,” he concluded.
The 7th Circuit ruling was among a string of court decisions in recent years striking down city gun restrictions, most notably the city’s long-standing handgun ban. The courts later voided ordinance that did not allow gun shops and outright banned ranges.