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Chicago Firing-Range Ban Teetering; City Revamps Ordinance

A Chicago law banning firing ranges in the third-largest U.S. city probably harms gun owners’ Second Amendment rights and must be temporarily blocked, a federal appeals court ruled.

The Chicago-based court’s decision today comes in a case challenging a city ordinance restricting handgun possession to inside the home, mandating an hour of range training as a prerequisite to gun ownership and barring those ranges from operating within its borders.

The Responsible Gun Ownership Ordinance was passed by the city council after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Chicago’s outright ban on civilian handgun possession in 2010. A lower court judge last year denied the challengers’ request for an order blocking enforcement of the firing-range prohibition.

“The plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction against the firing-range ban,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes said in the ruling. “The harm to their Second Amendment rights cannot be remedied by damages, their challenge has a strong likelihood of success on the merits, and the city’s claimed harm to the public interest is based entirely on speculation.”

The lower court decision was rendered by U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall in October. The lawsuit was filed in August by the Illinois State Rifle Association, gun-owner advocacy group the Second Amendment Foundation, three Chicago residents and Action Target Inc., a Provo, Utah-based business that designs and builds shooting ranges.

New Ordinance Passed

As the appellate panel issued its ruling, Chicago aldermen passed a new measure permitting the ranges, while restricting them to enclosed spaces located within districts zoned only for manufacturing and at least 1,000 feet from areas zoned for residential use, schools, houses of worship or other ranges.

“Swift and decisive action from the City Council was essential to preserve the gun-control and safety elements of the ordinance,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press statement. “The action taken by the council today ensured that gun ranges in Chicago will be regulated as part of a thoughtful plan that is focused on the safety of all Chicagoans.”

“Chicago has to obey the Constitution. It has to respect Second Amendment rights,” plaintiffs’ attorney David Sigale of suburban Glen Ellyn, Illinois, said today in a phone interview.

Acknowledging the city council’s new measure, he said it allows shooting ranges “on the surface but has so many restrictions and fees and prohibitions” that it still may run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

“I think the city would be well advised to take a real hard look at what they just did,” Sigale said.

The case is Ezell v. City of Chicago, 10c5135, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Chicago).

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