CHICAGO (AP) — Forced to weaken one of the nation's toughest gun-control laws, the Chicago City Council clearly signaled it wasn't backing down by banning concealed weapons in all bars and restaurants that sell liquor on Wednesday — and noting that attorneys were ready to fight expected lawsuits.
State legislators were forced by a federal appeals court in July to adopt a law allowing residents to carry concealed weapons in Illinois, the only state that still banned the practice. The resulting state law largely stripped city and county officials of their authority to regulate guns, which especially irked officials in Chicago, where residents had to apply for concealed-carry permits through the police chief.
Alderman reluctantly watered down that ordinance on Wednesday, but then approved the gun ban for bars and restaurants. They took turns defending the new ban and issued a lightly veiled challenge to gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association.
"Bullets and booze don't mix," said Alderman Edward Burke, one of the sponsors of the ordinance. "For those of you who might be worried about the expense of defending this when the NRA sues, as they've threatened to do, (a Chicago law firm) has agreed to represent the city to defend this matter on a pro bono basis."
The state law includes a provision that allows guns in restaurants and taverns that make less than 50 percent of their profits off alcohol sales.
But Chicago aldermen said the city's restaurant owners were upset that state lawmakers did not ban guns inside all their establishments. Signs have popped up at scores of Chicago restaurants warning patrons that they are gun-free zones, and aldermen said they had to move quickly to protect the local businesses.
The state law also gives state police sole authority to issue concealed-carry permits, so alderman were forced to delete from Chicago's ordinance any requirement that residents obtain and pay for a city permit to carry a concealed handgun. However, the city still has an assault weapons ban and the city does not allow gun dealers within its boundaries.
Amending that ordinance is the latest chapter in the city's dwindling power to ban guns in Chicago, which last year had more homicides than any city in the nation. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's longstanding gun ban in 2010.