SAF wins Chicago range ban injunction
by Dave Workman
For the second time in two years, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has prevailed against the City of Chicago in a gun rights case, this time in a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that orders a lower district federal court to grant the Foundation a temporary injunction against the city’s ban on gun ranges inside city limits.
The case is Ezell v. City of Chicago.
Immediately after last year’s landmark SAF victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the city adopted a handgun ordinance that required special permits and mandated range training, but banned gun ranges inside city limits. The city argued that citizens could fulfill their training requirement by visiting a suburban range.
Joining SAF in the original lawsuit were Action Target Inc., the Illinois State Rifle Association and three Chicago residents, Rhonda Ezell, William Hespen and Joseph Brown. Their attempts to obtain a temporary restraining order against the gun range ban were twice rejected by the district court. The Appeals Court ruling is severely critical of the lower court’s ruling.
The court ruled that the city cannot adopt an ordinance requiring firearms training as a prerequisite to obtaining a permit to keep a gun in the home for personal protection, while at the same time banning gun ranges inside the city. By no small coincidence, the city immediately adopted a revised ordinance on the same morning that the court ruling came down, which now allows public gun ranges in the city.
However, the city’s new position does not moot the court ruling.
SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb was delighted at the ruling, which included a separate but concurring opinion from Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner. While she is seen as more sympathetic to the city than her colleagues, Rovner still wrote in her concurrence that “…the city may not condition gun ownership for self-defense in the home on a prerequisite that the City renders impossible to fulfill within the city limits.”
SAF is represented in the Ezell case by attorney Alan Gura, who also represented SAF in last year’s McDonald case, which incorporated the Second Amendment to the states.
“Even Chicago politicians must respect the people’s fundamental civil rights,” Gura told Gun Week. “Gun rights are coming to Chicago. The only question is how much the city’s intransigence will cost taxpayers along the way.”
Concluding her remarks, Rovner observed, “The ordinance admittedly was designed to make gun ownership as difficult as possible. The city has legitimate, indeed overwhelming, concerns about the prevalence of gun violence within city limits. But the Supreme Court has now spoken in Heller and McDonald on the Second Amendment right to possess a gun in the home for self-defense and the city must come to terms with that reality.”
“This is a significant victory that could have strong implications well beyond the Chicago city limits,” Gottlieb stated. “The court is making it clear that cities cannot adopt firearms ordinances that are so deliberately restrictive that they make it impossible for citizens to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment.”
The majority opinion, written by Judge Diane S. Sykes, contains abundant grist for what Gottlieb believes may be the groundwork to challenge other prohibitions on carrying firearms outside the home. Underscoring that, the day after the court ruling was issued, SAF filed another lawsuit challenging the ban on carry in the state of Illinois.
But Judge Sykes’ most compelling language compared the Second Amendment to the First in terms of the protections that must be afforded rights affirmed by both amendments.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone suggesting that Chicago may prohibit the exercise of a free-speech or religious-liberty right within its borders on the rationale that those rights may be freely enjoyed in the suburbs,” Sykes wrote. “That sort of argument should be no less unimaginable in the Second Amendment context.”
Sykes also scolded the district court for having gotten “off on the wrong foot by accepting the city’s argument that its ban on firing ranges causes only minimal harm to the plaintiffs”
“Even Chicago politicians must respect the people’s fundamental civil rights,” Gura said. “We will now get rid of the revised range ban, and the range ban that will follow it, and if there’s another range ban, we’ll get rid of that, too, time and again, until Chicago becomes a normal part of America. Gun rights are coming to Chicago. The only question is how much the city’s intransigence will cost taxpayers along the way.”
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