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The City has an opportunity to help keep illegal and unwanted guns out of Evanston by crafting stringent operating regulations governing gun shops and firing ranges and a strong code of conduct for operators of these businesses within the Evanston community. Under this ordinance, firing ranges are the only places guns can be sold legally in Evanston.
On June 22, City Council approved an ordinance allowing gun shops and firing ranges as special uses within the City limits. They did so on the advice of Corporation Counsel that the State’s 2013 gun laws mandate that such businesses be permitted and that the zoning regulations Council enacted would be found constitutional. The matter of crafting regulations for operating gun shops and firing ranges and a code of conduct for operators was referred to the Council’s Planning and Development Committee that same night. Aldermen on that committee will presumably work with City attorneys and others to come up with a strong code of conduct and a stringent set of operating regulations.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has endorsed a code of conduct, and we encourage the City attorneys and the members of the Planning and Development Committee to study it and other models as they build Evanston’s code of conduct for responsible gun sellers and operators of firing ranges here.
The introduction to the Brady code of conduct states in part, “Responsible gun sellers know that their families, friends and communities are safer when they keep guns out of the wrong hands. … [B]y employing responsible business practices a gun dealer can reduce criminals’ access to guns – and, correspondingly, gun crime, deaths and injuries.”
There are six aspects to the code of conduct endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
• preventing the sales of guns to straw purchasers or gun traffickers by, among other things, maintaining records of all trace requests received from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and all purchasers that bought a gun later traced to crime to identify such potential purchasers if they attempt to purchase another firearm; screening for and refusing to sell guns or ammunition to purchasers that exhibit signs of alcohol intoxication, drug use or possession, or mental instability; and limiting purchases of handguns to one per 30 days per civilian, non-law enforcement customer;
• preventing sales to persons prohibited from buying guns or too dangerous to possess guns by, among other things, refusing to transfer a firearm until a background check has been completed and the purchaser is cleared to purchase the firearm and searching state court and criminal government databases that may provide information on whether the potential purchaser is prohibited from owning a gun;
• requiring adequate locks, exterior lighting, surveillance cameras, alarm systems and other anti-theft measures and practices at gun shops; electronically recording the make, model, caliber or gauge, and serial number of all firearms that are acquired no later than one business day after their acquisition; electronically recording their purchaser no later than one business day after their disposition; and immediately notifying local and federal law enforcement of any loss or theft of firearms;
• ensuring, through background checks, that employees are responsible and, through proper training, are prepared to be effective gate-keepers;
• assisting law enforcement in investigating and preventing criminal access to guns by notifying them of suspected straw purchasers or multiple purchases within a 90-day period and videotaping or electronically recording (including audio) the point-of-sale of all firearms transactions and keeping these recordings for at least five years; and
• maintaining insurance for victims entitled to compensation because they were injured because of the irresponsible practices of a gun dealer.
Implementing this code and following all applicable state and federal laws regarding gun sales will, according to the Brady Campaign, “dramatically decrease the probability that a dealer will be a source of guns for criminals, gun traffickers, straw purchasers and other prohibited or dangerous people.”
Gun violence permeates the life of this country. Much of society, including local governments, is held hostage by the gun lobby. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Heller case and despite the state’s concession to allow “eligible” or “qualified” individuals to carry handguns on their persons, we believe that such weapons do not enhance the quality of life. In fact, they severely diminish it.
We hope that Council will not repeat the inaction of two years ago in this very serious matter of establishing operating regulations for firing ranges and a code of conduct for those who would operate them.