On April 30, Judge Marvin E. Aspen entered an order staying the case filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) against the City of Evanston. Under the order, the stay will remain in effect until the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decides appeals in cases brought by the NRA against the City of Chicago and the Village of Oak Park. The issue presented in those appeals is whether the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is applicable to states and municipalities.


The NRA filed suit on June 27, 2008 against the City of Evanston, seeking to knock out Evanston‘s ordinance that banned handguns, with some exceptions, in the city. The suit was filed the day after the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.


 In Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess handguns. The Court struck down the District of Columbia‘s laws (which were federal laws) banning the possession of firearms. The Court said, though, that the right to possess firearms was not unlimited. The Court also said it was not deciding whether the Second Amendment applied to state or municipal laws that banned handguns.


After the NRA filed suit, Evanston amended its gun ordinance to permit residents to possess handguns in the city if they are kept solely at the owner’s residence for “self-protection.” Evanston then moved to dismiss the NRA’s suit on grounds that the amendment cured any problems created by Heller and argued the case was moot. Judge Aspen agreed. He dismissed the complaint, but gave the NRA leave to amend.


The NRA subsequently amended its complaint alleging that Evanston‘s ordinance violated its members’ rights because “it prohibits transportation of a handgun to the home, possession of a handgun within the home for purposes other than self-protection, [and] transportation of a handgun from the home to another location for lawful purposes.”


The NRA thus maintains that Evanston‘s gun ordinance is still defective because it does not permit a gun owner with a right to transport a gun to his or her home, and does not permit a gun to be possessed for purposes other than self-defense in the home. Evanston again moved to dismiss. On April 27, Judge Aspen denied the Evanston‘s motion.


On other fronts, the NRA sued Chicago and Oak Park, challenging their ordinances that banned handguns. Unlike Evanston, Chicago and Oak Park defended their ordinances and argued that the Second Amendment did not apply to state or municipal laws. On Dec. 4, 2008, Judge Milton I. Shadur entered an order in which he dismissed the NRA’s complaints against Chicago and Oak Park. He concluded he was bound to adhere to an 1886 decision of the United States Supreme Court and a 1982 decision of the Seventh Circuit which held that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states or municipalities. Hence, the Second Amendment could not be used to invalidate Chicago‘s or Oak Park‘s ordinances. The NRA has appealed Judge Shadur’s order to the Seventh Circuit.


In the City of Evanston case, Judge Aspen ruled that Evanston did not adequately raise the issue whether the Second Amendment applies to the City of Evanston, and he thus declined to rule on that issue in denying Evanston‘s motion to dismiss the case. On April 30, however, he stayed the NRA’s case against Evanston until the Seventh Circuit ruled on the NRA’s appeals in the Chicago and Oak Park cases.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...