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Gun ranges in Chicago could be allowed in more areas under proposal

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

A proposal to expand where gun ranges are allowed in Chicago as required by a recent federal court ruling has been advanced to the City Council for a likely Wednesday vote despite the objections of four aldermen.

The new rules would allow gun ranges in business, commercial and industrial areas, provided the owners get a special-use permit — which requires officials to consider objections from people and businesses in the surrounding area. No commercial ranges currently exist in Chicago.

Now, city rules allow gun ranges only in industrial areas and only when they are located 100 feet from another range and 500 feet away from a host of other types of land uses — including homes, schools, day care operations, houses of worship, liquor stores, parks, libraries, museums and hospitals. The changes would eliminate those distance requirements.

The existing restrictions, first established in 2011, confined gun ranges to about just 2 percent of the city. In January, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down those restrictions, saying the city could not prove assertions that ranges attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead contamination and carry a risk of fire. The ruling noted requirements in the city building code addressed the issues of contamination and fire.

The three-judge panel also found no justification for banning anyone under 18 from going into a range but said the city could establish a "more closely tailored age restriction." One justice dissented from that part of the opinion.

The changes to be considered Wednesday also would allow people younger than 18 to shoot at a range if they are supervised by a parent, guardian or trained instructor.

City attorney William Aguiar said the building code and a required safety plan for shooting ranges "helps protect public safety."

Ald.Michele Smith, 43rd, was among four aldermen who voted against the proposed changes at a joint meeting of the License and Zoning committees Monday.

"The Supreme Court that passed these rules and the 7th Circuit's completely out of touch with the needs of cities, the protection of our children, and I'm proud as a city we did everything we could to resist this," Smith said. "I can't imagine what this next bunch of special-use hearings are going to look like if someone is going to try to bring a gun range into my neighborhood."

Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, Ald.Brendan Reilly, 42nd, and Ald.John Arena, 45th, also voted against the proposed changes.

The 7th Circuit ruling was among a string of court decisions in recent years striking down city gun restrictions, most notably the city's long-standing handgun ban. The courts later voided city ordinances that did not allow gun shops and outright banned shooting ranges.

Twitter @ReporterHal


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