by Joseph P. Tartaro
A federal judge on Dec. 18 upheld Chicago’s 1982 handgun ban as Mayor Daley disclosed plans to strengthen it by following Washington, DC’s lead.
None of the individual plaintiffs or the organizations sponsoring the suits was surprised by the lower court decision. They expected the issue to be resolved at the highest court levels.
In a 5-to-4 decision on June 26th, the Supreme Court had overturned the DC handgun ban on grounds that the Second Amendment establishes the right to own a handgun and other operable firearms in a home or business for personal self-defense.
Minutes later, the Second Amendment Foundation and Illinois State Rifle Association filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the handgun bans in Chicago. The next day, the National Rifle Associated filed suit against Chicago and suburban Morton Grove, Evanston and Oak Park. Wilmette, Morton Grove and Evanston subsequently repealed their handgun bans, rather than finance a long and expensive litigation process. Chicago held fast.
Now, according to The Chicago Sun Times, US District Judge Milton Shadur rewarded the city for hanging tough, rejecting the pair of lawsuitswhich had been combined.
The Daley administration was pleased, but “not surprised” by the decision, according to The Sun Times. City attorneys are well aware that the fight goes on.
“We believe this decision will ultimately end up in the hands of the US Supreme Court,” said Law Department spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle.
“This is a victory for us, but, it’s just one step in what is probably going to be a long battle.”
Todd Vandermyde, the Illinois legislative liaison for the NRA who was quoted by The Sun Times, called Shadur’s ruling a temporary victory for the city.
“It was expected. We went to court knowing it’s going to take a higher court’s ruling. As Judge Shadur enumerated in his decision, he’s still bound by the precedent set by the 7th Circuit (Court of Appeal). He wasn’t going to stick his neck out on an issue that the 7th Circuit hasn’t changed its mind on,” he said.
“City taxpayers are going to pay more money in legal fees for a fight they will ultimately lose. The city is only postponing the inevitable. They won this round. But if this thing goes to the Supreme Court, we will prevail. The court laid out a very compelling case with a lot of foundation for an individual’s right to bear arms,” said Vandermyde.
In his ruling, Shadur appeared to caution the city that its victory might be short-lived.
“This court should not be misunderstood as either rejecting or endorsing the logic of plaintiff’s argument. It may well carry the day before a court that is unconstrained by the obligation to follow the unreversed precedent of a court that occupies a higher position in the judicial firmament,” the decision stated.
At a news conference on school violence that preceded Shadur’s ruling, Daley hinted strongly that he intends to follow Washington’s lead.
The mayor said he plans to hold a gun conference early in 2009 to consider current trends in gun violence and how they might be addressed within the legal parameters established by the nation’s highest court.
“I believe the court’s ruling presents us with an opportunity to continue our efforts to enact reasonable, common sense gun laws that put conditions on gun ownership and sales and that also puts limitations on where guns are permitted, all of which the court’s ruling allows,” the mayor said.
Asked point-blank whether he intends to use the city’s sweeping home-rule powers to mimic the DC changes, Daley said, “That’s what we’re looking at. You’re not gonna rush into something so quickly. That’s why you have a conference and listen to people.”