As those who are concerned about gun right (pro or against) know, the Supreme Court recently ruled against Chicago’s handgun ban. Given what the Constitution says, this ruling seems to be dead on.
In response, the city council voted unanimously for a new ordinance. Though the council cannot ban gun ownership, the ordinance places rather extreme restrictions on gun ownership. First, a household can have only one “operable firearm.”More guns can be on the premises, but these must be locked up.
This strikes me as a rather odd sort of restriction and raises an obvious question about what this limit is intended to do. While it is a good idea to keep guns secured, this seems like it might be intended as a mere annoyance law or even an act of spite (“fine, have your damn guns…but you have to pick your favorite and lock up all the rest!”).
Second, gun owners need to get a state permit. While this also seems intended to be an annoyance factor, it does seem Constitutional. After all, it does not deny ownership-it merely adds a legal step to the process. Of course, it can be seen as an intrusion into a basic Constitutional right. Obviously enough, this will not have any real impact on illegal gun possession or crime. After all, someone who is inclined to commit crimes with a gun is hardly going to balk at an ordinance requiring a permit.
Third, gun owners have to register their guns with the police. While I have an emotional distaste for the idea of registering guns with the state,this seems no more onerous that registering a car. However, it also seems to be yet another annoyance factor that will have no significant impact on crime or violence.
Fourth, gun owners will be required to receive training. While this is also an annoyance factor, I do agree that such training is an excellent idea. Having a fair amount of experience at shooting ranges and while hunting, I know that some people own guns who have no real understanding of basic safety. Just as people are required to received training to operate a car, I think that people should be expected to receive at least some basic safety training when it comes to guns. While I would prefer to rely on personal responsibility (in my own case, my dad taught me about safe gun handling), that can be an uncommon commodity.
Fifth, assault weapons are banned. This, as a friend of mine always says, is a “fear ban.” Assault weapons are no deadlier than other guns, but they look “scary” (like military weapons). While they can hold more rounds than other guns, all modern style weapons are rapid fire and hold multiple rounds (typically 5 for a hunting rifle and 15 for a semi-automatic pistol). Hunting weapons also tend to be more powerful than assault rifles. In any case, criminals can easily get weapons elsewhere and bring them into the city, presumably as they did during the ban.
Sixth, the ordinance also bans gun shops within the city. This is, of course, an annoyance factor (“you can have your damn gun, but you’ll have to drive to get it!”).
Given that the complete ban seemed to do nothing to reduce the number of crimes in Chicago, it seems unlikely that this ordinance will have any meaningful impact. To state the obvious, crime is not caused by guns. When I grew up in Maine, almost everyone I knew had guns. As a kid, I owned a .410, a 20 gauge shotgun and a .22 rifle. My dad had all sorts of rifles, pistols and shotguns. Yet, Maine is an extremely low crime state. As such, it makes sense to consider other causal factors. Focusing on gun bans and restrictions merely seems to try to address a tool that some people use in crimes. This does not, however, address the root causes of crime. As such, it is not surprising that despite the ban, Chicago was awash in violence.