Chicago’s ban on gun ranges challenged in court

When the Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago over the summer that the right to bear arms does apply to the states, the victory’s sweetness for conservatives was short-lived. Almost immediately, gun-rights advocates braced themselves for more battles against the city’s many regulatory hurdles and licensing schemes.

And there were plenty. Just days after Chicago’s gun ban was ruled unconstitutional, the city council unanimously approved the Responsible Gun Ownership Ordinance. One of its provisions is that all Chicago residents must present a signed affidavit from a firearms instructor, saying the prospective gun owner completed a training and safety course that includes at least one hour of range time.

There’s just one problem. The city of Chicago bans gun ranges. The only ranges in the city are available to federal employees and police.

Now — in what looks to be shaping into one of the more important post-McDonald lawsuits — Ezell v. Chicago has already reached the appeals court level. In the case, Alan Gura is challenging the city’s gun range ban. Gura is the same attorney who successfully argued before the Supreme Court the McDonald case and 2008’s DC v. Heller, which decided that an individual right to bear arms exists in federal enclaves like Washington, D.C.

In the lawsuit filed this past August, Gura sought a complete injunction of the ban, arguing it was too severe of a burden against a right the Supreme Court had deemed constitutional. His suit sought to immediately halt the ban’s enforcement until its constitutionality can be reviewed.

In October, however, Judge Virginia Kendall denied Gura’s request on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove they were unable to go outside the city to access a gun range. So, last week he responded by filing an appeal with the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his appeal, Gura challenges the city’s argument that the ban is warranted because gun ranges “pose considerable public safety, health, and environmental concerns,” reduces the risk of illegal transfers of firearms, and prevents difficult regulatory challenges.

As another defense, Chicago claimed that even without the ban, zoning regulations would make range construction impossible. This is despite the fact that Chicago Zoning Administrator Patricia Scudiero – who would be tasked with reviewing the zoning rules – testified in court that she “has never been to a gun range, has never read or studied any literature about gun ranges, has no experience or education with either the structure or operation of gun ranges, and has never investigated gun ranges for zoning purposes.”

“The Second Amendment guarantees a right to use and operate gun ranges…shooting at a range is also in and of itself a traditional lawful use of firearms secured by that amendment,” wrote Gura in his appeal. “Thus, while Defendant [Chicago] may regulate ranges in the interest of public health and safety, it cannot completely ban them, whatever its purported reasons.”

He went on to say that, “In electing to make regular range training a prerequisite for home gun possession, the City deprives itself of any theoretical ability to ban ranges needed for that training. Chicago cannot ban something it mandates as a condition of exercising a fundamental right.”

The city’s defense, however, that gun enthusiasts should be content with going outside the city to shoot for sport is nothing new. Recently, in fact, Justice Stephen Breyer appeared on Fox News and asked host Chris Wallace, “Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don’t think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun.”