CHICAGO — While courts have ruled the city of Chicago has to change its way of thinking related to citizens' gun rights, a prominent Chicago appeals attorney believes the city remains mired in an approach to handgun regulation that could invite yet more legal actions and setbacks in the courts.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals took aim at a Chicago city ordinance restricting access to firing ranges in the city.
While the city took the case to the federal appeals court, Christopher Keleher, an attorney who primarily works on appeals cases, believes the city's case was lost before it even landed in court. Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and particularly in McDonald v. Chicago, served to strongly limit the abilities of governments to restrict gun ownership and usage rights under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.
In McDonald, the Supreme Court in 2010 overruled the Seventh Circuit's decision to uphold a Chicago city ordinance restricting gun ownership. The Supreme Court found an individual’s right to "keep and bear arms" was incorporated against the states under the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to due process.
“The Seventh District has to follow the Supreme Court,” Keleher said. “The city, on the other hand, still seems to be locked in a pre-McDonald mindset."
In authoring the Seventh District’s latest decision earlier this year, Circuit Judge Diane Sykes also addressed the issue of at what age minors can legally visit a shooting range.
She ultimately deemed the city’s attempt to restrict gun rights as an “elaborate scheme” to “severely limit” the Second Amendment rights of local gun owners.
As part of that ordinance, city officials pushed to require permits for handgun possession, mandated that all firearm owners undergo at least an hour of range training and then banned gun ranges within city limits.
The judges also stressed that city officials had come up short in their arguments that no one younger than 18 is entitled to a Second Amendment right to “learn and practice firearm use in the controlled setting of a shooting range.”
Keleher is convinced that the litigation is far from over.
“I can see the city going back to the drawing board and trying again to restrict gun laws,” he said. “But the district has made it clear. It will follow the lead of the Supreme Court. This isn’t the first of these kinds of cases the city has lost, and there will almost certainly be others.”