Chicago aldermen on Wednesday took a step closer to allowing gun stores in the city, giving preliminary approval to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to heavily regulate firearms retailers.
Emanuel introduced the gun store regulations in response to a federal court ruling it was unconstitutional for the city to ban gun sales.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang ruled in January that the city failed to convince him that banning the sale of firearms by licensed dealers was necessary to reduce gun violence.
Eager to continue positioning himself as tough on guns at a time Chicago's persistent violent crime remains a major concern for residents and a serious drag on his popularity among voters heading into his re-election campaign, Emanuel has made it clear he is only begrudgingly presenting a plan to allow them to be sold in city limits.
The mayor's hardline position comes despite the fact Chicago banned handgun ownership for decades, and gun violence continued. And Chicago Police say they pull about 7,000 guns off the city's streets each year, with many of the weapons used in crimes finding their way into Chicago from stores in the suburbs, Indiana, Wisconsin or Southern states.
Emanuel has pressed unsuccessfully for tougher state and federal gun laws.
The mayor's firearms dealer ordinance requires gun stores to video-record sales. In addition, it mandates a 72-hour waiting period for buying handguns and 24 hours for rifles and shotguns.
A dealer would be able to sell only one handgun per month per buyer, and the store records would be subject to quarterly audits to discourage trafficking.
Gun retailers would need special-use permits, would be allowed only in areas with a few commercial zoning designations. They would not be allowed within 500 feet of a school or park. Because of those restrictions, the Emanuel administration says gun stores would be eligible to set up in spots that make up only about half of one percent of Chicago's geographic area.
Another provision is aimed at preventing a gun store that loses its business license for failing to follow the law from immediately reopening in the same location.
Gun rights advocates could still challenge these rules in court. That’s what they did after the Emanuel administration put together new regulations to allow gun ranges in Chicago after a federal judge's 2011 ruling that overturned the city's ban on ranges.
Those rules allowed firing ranges only in industrial areas at least 1,000 feet away from a school, a church, a playground or a day care center. The regulations also included noise restrictions. Gun rights advocates said the standards were designed to discourage firing range owners from locating in the city. The council loosened the rules, but opponents said they're still unduly onerous. The case remains in court.
Emanuel has said he believes the gun store regulations will stand up to a legal challenge.