Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
For the last several weeks city officials have been saying that they would be prepared to act "swiftly" in response to the Supreme Court's decision on the legality of Chicago's gun ban—just yesterday Mayor Daley and Alderman Anthony Beale, who chairs the City Council's police and fire committee, suggested that the council could start reviewing a new gun-restriction ordinance as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
But city officials are now backing down from that time frame, saying they haven't finished drafting a replacement ordinance. And numerous aldermen at City Hall Tuesday told me they haven't been briefed on the on the city's plans.
"We're still working on it," corporation counsel Mara Georges said at City Hall Tuesday. She said there's no chance the council will pass legislation at its full meeting Wednesday. "My hope is to have it done shortly, maybe even tonight, and to get it before aldermen officially by Thursday."
That was news to several aldermen I spoke with. "Nobody's told me anything about this," one told me. "I have to get my information from you guys in the press."
Georges did offer a few clues about what the city's new ordinance might look like. At a police committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, staffers passed out studies on gun violence and copies of the regulations put in place in Washington, DC, after the Supreme Court knocked down its gun ban in 2008. Georges said Chicago's new law is likely to closely resemble DC's, which includes stringent registration requirements and a prohibition on semiautomatic handguns.
She also urged aldermen to consider instituting a limit of "one handgun per person per home" and banning gun dealers from operating within the city limits—restrictions that in her view are allowed under the court's ruling. Georges said there are currently 10 gun stores within a mile of Chicago, 32 within five miles of the city, and 45 within 13 miles of the city.
"It is clear that Chicago residents who would like to own a gun for the purposes of self-defense within the home have a wide array of options very close to the city," she said. "There is no need for more gun dealers in the area, and certainly not in Chicago."
At least a few aldermen wondered aloud about why the city had put so much energy into its handgun ban in the first place. Fourteenth Ward alderman Ed Burke noted that he was chairman of the police and fire committee when the city's current gun ordinance was passed in 1982.
"I believe it was in reaction to the outrage over the attempted assassination of the pope," Burke said. "So we rushed to judgments, and part of the problem we live with today was sowed with an overly broad approach. Clearly AK-47s, automatic rifles, et cetera, should be banned.... But I think we weren't willing to recognize the facts because we didn't want to be seen to be weak on anti-gun laws at the time."
A little later Second Ward alderman Robert Fioretti asked police chief Jody Weis how many people have been prosecuted under the city's handgun ban.
"There haven't been many," Weis admitted.
He said that's because the local ban is usually superseded by stronger state and federal laws. Those haven't been overturned in court.
UPDATE: I've just learned that the new ordinance will be introduced to the full council on Wednesday and a special meeting will be called to consider it on Friday. More to come.