CHICAGO – The city of Chicago, which has fought for decades to keep guns out of the hands of its residents, now must craft an ordinance within 180 days that will allow gun stores to open there, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Edward E. Chang granted the city's request for the delay, a small victory for a city that has lost a series of recent legal battles in its efforts to keep guns out. Chicago officials now find themselves ushering in a new era in which the city must welcome business that sell guns and residents who legally carry concealed weapons.
In fact, attorneys representing the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and others that sued the city argued against the six months of delay by noting Chicago officials are hardly strangers to addressing gun laws.
"The city has demonstrated in the past cases it can act quickly," said Pete Patterson, pointing to the city's fast action after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 rendered unenforceable Chicago's decades-old ban on handguns.
Drew Worseck, an attorney representing the city, said that 2010 decision came after a long legal fight that gave officials time to consider its response while the timing on the gun sales decision was less expected.
Chang agreed with the Worseck, saying "six months is an appropriate time to stay the judgment."
Just what the city's ordinance will look like is unclear, but in asking for the 180 days, the city made it clear the job of crafting an ordinance will be complicated, with "many detailed components, including zoning, licensing and operational requirements for gun dealers."
Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said gun stores could start opening in about a year.
Tuesday's hearing served as another reminder of the city's weak position on gun restrictions following recent court decisions over the Second Amendment.
While the judge gave the city more time to appeal the decision he made last week that declared city ordinances barring gun sales unconstitutional, an attorney representing the city said such an appeal is not forthcoming.
"Technically, the city does retain the right to file an appeal for 30 days following the [judge's] entering of the final judgment, but the city has indicated that it does not plan to appeal, it does not want to appeal and that it wants to move forward with passing new comprehensive regulations to regulate gun sales and transfers in the city," Worseck said after the hearing.
Afterward, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to put a positive spin on the ruling.
"I am pleased the court granted our request for a six-month delay to allow time to adopt a municipal ordinance regulating firearm sales in Chicago," he said in a statement. "Our goal is to create the strictest regulations that protect our residents and also comply with the court order without undermining the progress we have made in reducing violent crime throughout our city."
Last week, Emanuel's office announced it would not appeal Chang's ruling, an announcement that was reminiscent of the City Council's decision in 2011 to approve – at the mayor's urging – an ordinance allowing gun ranges in Chicago. In that case, Emanuel said he pushed for the new measure before a federal appellate court's ruling because his legal team told him the ban was likely to be rejected and could jeopardize other parts of a wider gun ordinance.
Vandermyde said he expected the city to craft an ordinance that goes too far, likely triggering lawsuits.
"The only question I have is, how much of the taxpayer's money do they want to continue to waste" on lawsuits, he said.