US District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang found that the City of Chicago’s ban on the sale or transfer of a firearm except by inheritance was unconstitutional in a ruling today in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The case was brought by the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and three individual plaintiffs against the City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Under Chicago Municipal Code § 8-20-100-a:
(a) Except as authorized by section 2-84-075, no firearm may be sold, acquired or otherwise transferred within the city, except through inheritance of the firearm.
The exceptions are for sales to police officers as authorized by the Police Superintendent and for loans of firearms at ranges. The ban did include transfers including gifts between family members. More importantly, the ban also includes federally licensed firearms dealers.
Judge Chang prefaces his opinion by saying, in part, that:
certain fundamental right are protected by the Constitution, put outside
government’s reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under
the Second Amendment. This right must also include the right to acquire a firearm,
although that acquisition right is far from absolute: there are many long-standing
restrictions on who may acquire firearms (for examples, felons and the mentally ill
have long been banned) and there are many restrictions on the sales of arms (for
example, licensing requirements for commercial sales). But Chicago’s ordinance goes
too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful
acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms, and at the same time the evidence does not
support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes that the ordinance
tries to serve.
Chicago had tried to argue that their ordinance was aimed at preventing crime by preventing gang members from obtaining firearms. Research by certain well-known anti-gun academics such as Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig purported to show that gang members were reluctant to leave their territory in order to obtain firearms for fear of intruding upon another gang’s territory. Thus, Chicago tried to show that by relegating gun sales to the suburbs that gangs would have a harder and more expensive time obtaining firearms. Judge Chang rejected this saying that residents who could legally own a firearm would bear more of the burden of added transaction costs than would gang members.
Another argument that Chicago tried to put forth was that they could ban gun stores because the BATFE did not effectively monitor them. They called it part of a “chronically-diseased regime that is fundamentally broken” in terms of regulation. But, as Judge Chang noted, nothing in the ordinance offered more resources to BATFE or pledge enhanced cooperation by the Chicago PD with BATFE.
Judge Chang also notes that the Chicago ordinance went well beyond state and federal law in banning transfers and gifts between individuals and family members who were legally permitted to own firearms. They did this without any studies or justification for the ban. He said, “This lack of justification only bolsters the conclusion that these Municipal Code ordinances are substantially overinclusive and do not pass muster under Ezell’s rigorous scrutiny.”
Judge Chang concludes his opinion by stating:
In sum, given the rigorous showing that
demands, the City has not
demonstrated that allowing gun sales and transfers within city limits creates such
genuine and serious risks to public safety that flatly prohibiting them is justified. If the
City is concerned about reducing criminal access to firearms, either through legitimate
retail transactions or via thefts from gun stores, it may enact more appropriately
tailored measures. Indeed, nothing in this opinion prevents the City from considering
other regulations—short of the complete ban—on sales and transfers of firearms to
minimize the access of criminals to firearms and to track the ownership of firearms.
But the flat ban on legitimate sales and transfers does not fit closely with those goals. MCC § 8-20-100 and its zoning ordinance (to the extent that it bans the operation of
gun stores in Chicago) are therefore unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment was granted and the defendants’ motion was denied. Judge Chang then stayed his ruling to give Chicago time to file an appeal, to file a motion to stay his ruling, and/or to change the laws in question.