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The report from the City Council was clear: Aldermen have no wish to explore the limits of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia and no will to defend the City in the lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the wake of the Heller decision. The Council – with one alderman objecting – shied away from even requiring child-safety locks on handguns.
With little comment except from citizens, aldermen at the Aug. 11 City Council meeting amended the City’s weapons ordinance to comply – at least according to the City’s law department – with the Heller decision. Now Evanstonians who are not disqualified under sections of the City’s ordinance or the State’s statute against unlawful use of weapons may own handguns if they are kept within the residence and used solely for the purpose of self-protection.
Interim First Assistant Corporation Counsel Elke Tober-Purze said the new ordinance incorporates the protections of the state statute on unlawful use of weapons. She cautioned aldermen, though, on “redundancies” – that is, having municipal ordinances covering the same matters as the state statute.
Under the City ordinance as amended, any person with a valid state Firearms Owner Identification Card (FOID) may possess a handgun in the home for self-protection unless he or she
Is under 18 years of age “and [the] handgun is of a size that may be concealed on a person”;
Is under 21 and has been convicted of a misdemeanor other than a traffic offense or has been adjudged delinquent;
Is a narcotics addict;
Has been a patient in a mental hospital within the previous five years; or
Is mentally retarded.
Police officers active and retired, members of the armed forces or reserves and certain private security personnel would be exempted from the prohibition against keeping the weapons outside of the residence.
During citizen comment some residents from surrounding communities urged the City Council to delay amending the ordinance. Thomas Maynard of Skokie, representing the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence, said suicides occur more often in homes where guns are found than otherwise and danger is increased in instances of domestic violence when a gun is handy.
Jennifer Bishop, president of the North Shore chapter of the Million Mom March, asked the Council to postpone its decision, saying the Heller decision “doesn’t apply to state or municipal government.”
The Supreme Court held in three cases decided in the late 1800s that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states. The Court in Heller did not overrule these cases, although it made comments that questioned their continuing validity. Some legal scholars have suggested that, since other sections of the Bill of Rights have been held applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment, the Second Amendment will be made applicable to states and municipalities.
Ms. Bishop referred to model legislation being drafted by Lawyers Committee Against Violence and said, “Wait to see if the Second Amendment is incorporated. Give time for the LCAV ordinance before you change the protections you have.”
Evanston resident Nina Vinik, one of the drafters of the LCAV model legislation, told the RoundTable three weeks ago she was willing to work with City Council on crafting an ordinance.
Not Even Child-Safety Locks
Nonetheless, as the ordinance came to a vote, only Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, appeared willing to stand up to the NRA. She asked to amend the ordinance to require “that guns have child-safety locks.” Ms. Tober-Purze said she advised against the safety locks, because Mr. Heller and others had filed a second lawsuit in Washington, D.C., challenging provisions that attempted to ensure that firearms are stored safely.
“I’m sure we will receive flak from the NRA,” Ald. Tisdahl said, “and I still think we should defend our children.”
Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “I find the Supreme Court’s decision repugnant, but we cannot afford to fight for principle at this point.” He said he felt the City could not spend $200,000 defending a lawsuit.
“I don’t know that a child-safety lock is illegal,” Ald. Tisdahl responded.
Nonetheless, she received no support from her colleagues.
Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, proposed an amendment that felons would not be allowed to have handguns in Evanston. Ms. Tober-Purze said she did not think Evanston’s ordinance should preclude felons from owning handguns, since, she said, that issue was covered under the state statute governing unlawful use of weapons and she did not think the City should do that as well. “I caution you against redundancies [in the statute],” she said.
At the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Police Chief Richard Eddington said he did not believe the City should have a gun-registration program. In addition to the cost of the program, which he said the City could ill afford at this time, Chief Eddington said the program is “based on the idea that people tell the truth – which, in my professional experience has not always been the case.”
According to information from the state police website, www.isp.state.il.us/foid:
The FOID (firearms owner identification card) Act was created in 1968 “”as a way to regulate possession and acquisition of firearms and firearm ammunition as part of a public safety initiative.””
All Illinois residents who buy or possess firearms are required by law to have a valid FOID card.
The waiting period for taking possession of a handgun is 72 hours. Sellers must keep records of sales for 10 years; FOID cards are valid for 10 years.
There are approximately 1.2 million valid FOID cardholders in the state.
The Firearms Services Bureau processes approximately 210,000-220,000 applications annually.
In 2002, 4,642 applications were denied and 6,926 FOID cards were revoked as a result of the “”extensive review process”” that identifies individuals prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms and firearm ammunition.
Among other reasons, the Illinois State Police will refuse or revoke a FOID card if the individual:
Is under indictment for or has been convicted of a felony;
Is a fugitive from justice;
Is a controlled-substance and/or narcotics user or addict;
Has been a patient in a mental institution in the previous five years;
Has been discharged dishonorably from the armed forces;
Is the subject of an order of protection or has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence;
Has renounced U.S. citizenship; or
Is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.