Oak Park Continues to Wrestle with New Gun Restrictions
Village officials say they are not yet ready to bring rules forward.
As Cook County gets ready to formally adopt a $25 tax on new gun purchases, Oak Park continues to wrestle over how to rewrite some of its gun laws.
More than two years after its strict handgun ban was overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court, officials in the legal and police departments are looking at measures that can withstand challenges from gun rights advocates.
The process still isn't over, and it could be later in the year before they can bring any proposals before the board of trustees, interim village manager Cara Cara Pavlicek said.
There are efforts underway to look at any initiatives that have come as a result of recent court rulings, Village President David Pope said.
"When they (proposals) make their way to the board, staff will be in a position to thoroughly respond to questions and give a comprehensive list of options," he said.
In June, 2010, the United States Supreme Court overturned handgun bans in Oak Park and Chicago. Before the McDonald ruling came down, trustees directed the Board of Health, a panel of volunteers advising the health department, to explore gun control as a public health issue.
The board of health focused its efforts on examining training and licensing requirements in other Illinois communities to see if those measures could stand up to any legal challenges from gun rights advocates.
Read last year's story on gun control efforts here:
This past May, the board of health suggested voluntary education campaigns and other initiatives, but rejected the following ideas:
- A local gun registry;
- Mandatory requirements for handgun storage or the use of trigger locks;
- Licensing of gun dealers;
- Limitations on location of gun dealers.
The board did not recommend for or against the mandatory reporting of lost or stolen hand guns within 72 hours.
Memo from Board of Health is included as a PDF.
Pope noted there was some concern over whether any proposal would stand up to the test articulated in the Supreme Court decision in McDonald versus Chicago and the District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned the district's strict handgun ban just the year before.
But both Supreme Court cases held that broad bans on guns in the home are unconstitutional. At the same time they made clear that a broad range of common sense gun restrictions are constitutional, said Jonathan Lowy, legal director of the Brady Center Legal Action Project at the Brady Center.
"Federal, state and local governments have broad authority to regulate guns in all sorts of ways so long as it does not infringe on a law abiding responsible citizen having a gun in the home," Lowy said."Virtually all other reasonable reforms are on the table and permissible.
The nation's highest court listed a number of laws that would not be barred by the Second Amendment; the list, which was not exhaustive, included, according to the Brady Center Legal Action Project.
- Bans on gun possession by dangerous persons such as felons and the mentally ill.
- Laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.
- Laws imposing conditions and qualifications on gun sales, which could include background checks, licensing, and limits on bulk sales of handguns
- Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.
- Prohibitions on dangerous and unusual weapons, such as machine guns and military-style semiautomatic assault weapons.
- Safe storage laws to prevent gun accidents.
Another reform, which Lowy said could pass legal muster, will be approved this Friday when the Cook County Board formally approves a $25 tax on new gun purchases.
The tax, which will go into effect April 1, 2013, will raise $600,000 in 2013. It would help defray the cost of gun violence and pay for public health and public safety efforts in the county, said Owen Kilmer, a spokesman for the office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
A 5-cent tax on bullets was taken off the table as not being viable policy, Kilmer said.
In a separate vote, the Cook County board approved a $2 million gun violence prevention program, which would primarily provide grants to non-profit organizations with experience in violence prevention or community outreach, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kilmer said an advisory committee would be appointed to assess how to best use the funding.
Efforts to get comment from the State Rifle Assn. were unsuccessful.