The federal judiciary is slowly coming to the realization that the Second Amendment actually means the public can have guns. That’s not sitting well with local politicians in Chicago and Washington who are determined to keep the public disarmed. On Wednesday, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals made that harder by blowing away the claim that “gun violence” concerns justified rules depriving citizens of the right not only to own but also to use firearms in a responsible manner.
Ensuring the availability of places to practice safe shooting skills follows neatly from the Supreme Court’s rediscovery of the Second Amendment in the recent Heller and McDonald decisions. So a three-judge panel suspended the Windy City’s ban on firing ranges within city limits. This ordinance had been imposed as part of a suite of draconian regulations adopted after the high court struck down the city’s gun ban. Though one technically could own a sidearm, the process was made so complicated that the average law-abiding citizen was supposed to give up in frustration.
The fatal flaw in this hastily contrived scheme was a requirement that anyone seeking permission to own a pistol would first have to undergo an hour of training at a gun range - a facility prohibited within city limits. When the Second Amendment Foundation and Illinois State Rifle Association filed a lawsuit to strike down the gun-range ban, Chicago’s defense became downright silly. City attorneys couldn’t plausibly argue that range training was essential to gun ownership at the same time they denied training and practice had anything to do with Second Amendment gun ownership.
Technically, the case is ongoing. The appellate panel left room for Chicago to argue at trial that its public-safety concerns about firing ranges are legitimate. In the court’s own words, however, that’s “quite unlikely.” Among the laughable pretexts the city zoning czar dreamed up for the range ban was the concern that thieves would sneak onto the property and grab weapons right out from under the noses of facility users. To the contrary, a range is probably the only place in Chicago where one could go without fear of ever being mugged. In the 16 years that the National Rifle Association has operated its gun range in Fairfax, there have been no thefts or accidents, according to a spokesman.
What’s intriguing about the 7th Circuit’s decision is that the judges insisted the Second Amendment be treated with the same care as the First Amendment. It may be a minor inconvenience to force Chicago residents to drive a few miles to the suburbs to fire off a few rounds, but it’s an inconvenience that won’t stand. “This reasoning assumes that the harm to a constitutional right is measured by the extent to which it can be exercised in another jurisdiction,” the judges said. Chicago could not ban free speech by asserting one could merely take a bus to Naperville to express his thoughts.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel already has come up with a new ordinance allowing gun ranges but imposing so many bureaucratic approvals, fees and requirements that nobody could possibly run a successful operation meeting the conditions. Apparently, these politicians insist on a “thumbing of the municipal nose” at the court, as the 7th Circuit’s concurring opinion put it. Gun owners ought to thank Mr. Emanuel for setting up the next slam-dunk case further clarifying our rights.
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