Judge tosses gun club's suit vs Willowbrook over zoning denial; 2nd Amend 'not battering ram'

By Justin Stoltzfus | Jun 21, 2018

A Chicago federal judge has refused to undo the village of Willowbrook's decision to deny a permit to a gun club to develop a firearms range within the village, saying the club's reliance on the Second Amendment in this case misfires.

CHICAGO - A Chicago federal judge has refused to undo the village of Willowbrook's decision to deny a permit to a gun club to develop a firearms range within the village, saying the club's reliance on the Second Amendment in this case misfires.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras dismissed a lawsuit filed by The Chicago Gun Club against the village, revolving around the club's and co-plaintiff TCGC Property LLC's proposal to build a new gun range on a property within the village limits, accoridng to an order filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The complaint said the site for the proposed gun range was 3.42 acres and was zoned for general business in a zoning district that includes hotels and other commercial operations.

The plaintiffs said they filed an application for a special use permit to develop an indoor firing range and wanted the village to rezone the property.


U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras   fedbarchicago.org

Although the village's planning commission had initially indicated the subject property was potentially consistent with the requirements for rezoning, the lawsuit said the request was eventually denied, even though the plaintiffs had spent several thousand dollars for engineering and architectural work.

Chicago Gun Club alleged that during public meetings on the application, the village did not sufficiently limit or restrict visitors' speaking time, by for example, not setting time limits for speaking or discouraging what the complaint called “redundant comments.” The plaintiffs claim multiple speakers got a second opportunity to speak and unfairly sway the board.

The complaint raised a Second Amendment challenge related to the village's denial and a First Amendment action that contends the village's “ban” on gun ranges restricts free speech.

In his ruling, Kocoras said the village's rejection of the plaintiffs' application does not constitute an outright gun range ban.

“The complaint lacks allegations of fact in support of its sweeping 'outright ban' generalization," the judge wrote. "Plaintiffs’ broad posture is contradicted by judicially noticed exhibits demonstrative of both sizable areas in the village zoned B-4 as well as a permissible special use of 'indoor firing range' in B-4 districts.” 

In addition, the court cited other municipal cases where plaintiffs allege that lack of a gun range unduly restricted the population and addressed the plaintiff's complaint that the villages response was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

“This portion of plaintiffs’ pleadings occupies the realm of argument and conclusion rather than well-pled fact,” the ruling said. “The Second Amendment was never intended to be a battering ram, used to push aside the beliefs and concerns of American citizens. The idea that a gun range and gun store located in the middle of a small village is incompatible with concepts of a more perfect Union or the enjoyment of domestic tranquility – an idea espoused in a public forum by its residents – is entitled to credence.”

The village of Willowbrook is represented in the action by attorney John B. Murphey, of the firm of Rosenthal, Murphey, Coblentz & Donahue, of Chicago.

Chicago Gun Club is represented by attorneys William Daniel Kelly III, of the firm of Kelly & Karras Ltd., of Oak Brook, and David G. Sigale, of Glen Ellyn. 

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Rosenthal Murphey Coblentz & Donahue U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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