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It might surprise you, but there are currently no commercial gun ranges in Chicago. Having suffered under several waves of gun violence, the city actually has one of the most restrictive set of gun regulations of anywhere in the USA.
Last May, however, the City Council approved a more lenient set of rules regulating where gun ranges are allowed to open in the city. After a heated and complex debate, the Council voted to allow gun ranges in business, commercial , and industrial areas. New gun ranges would require owners to obtain a special use permit, and as part of this process potential objections from local residents will be taken into account.
The new laws represent a watering down of previously proposed, stricter rules. The initial regulations, struck down by the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, called for gun ranges to be allowed only in isolated industrial areas that covered just 2% of Chicago, both as a means to keep noise down and keep violence out.
Lawmakers believe that the ranges are far too loud, disturbing nearby residents and hurting the hearing of regular shooters. However, gun rights advocates are quick to point out that a simple use of some basic hearing protection for shooting is enough to avoid hearing damage.
The proponents of that earlier rule asserted that gun ranges attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead pollution, and can cause fires. If those sound like absurd reasons to stop gun ranges from opening, it is because they are, and we are glad that the appeals court saw through these arguments.
Even the new laws, which are far more lenient than those previously proposed, have been the subject of criticism by gun rights activists. They point out that, even though the laws appear lenient, they in fact impose quite stringent restrictions on where new gun ranges can be opened. In addition, the fact that local residents are able to raise objections to new ranges could mean than many proposed ranges could be blocked by the City Council.
And even these more lenient restrictions have not yet been introduced. Last month, several aldermen deferred the implementation of any such zoning requirements on gun ranges. They asserted that courts did not have a good grasp of the City’s concerns about guns and violence.
The ruling from the 7th Circuit is part of a broader set of court decisions, some of which we have reported at GND, which have struck down several gun restrictions in the city of Chicago. Most notably, the same court recently struck down Chicago’s long-standing ban on hand guns. The statement of the court voided city ordinances that banned gun shops and ranges outright.
In our humble opinion, the Chicago City Council is going after the wrong people. Whilst we understand that the city has explicably strong feelings on the issue of guns and violence, an outright ban on gun ranges and shops is a step too far.
In many places, gun stores and ranges form the center of the local community of responsible gun owners. It is unfortunately the case that some people will always criminally misuse firearms, but those who legally obtain and use their firearms whould not be persecuted because of this. And gun ranges, in particular, can be a great place for those new to gun ownership to learn how to use their weapons safely and responsibly.