Oak Park Exploring New Gun Rules

Restrictions, programs would have to be written to conform with SCOTUS rulings, withstand legal challenges.

More than a year after the the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its long-standing ban on handguns, Oak Park officials are looking for new ways to limit potential firearm owners.

This time, they'll approach gun ownership as a public health issue.

Why? Because organizations as varied as the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have for years said that the gun-associated violence is a public health epidemic in the United States.

And in Oak Park, the Department of Public Health has a mandate to protect the community's health from preventable death and injury, so the board of health seemed to be the most logical place to start a review, Village Manager Tom Barwin said.

“When you look at the issue from a public policy perspective, there are tremendous costs associated with guns, (such as) treatment and incarceration,” said Barwin, a former police officer in Detroit and other communities in Michigan. “We want to see what’s out there regarding safety regulations and awareness with respect to guns.”

The Village’s board of health – a panel of volunteers who advise the public health department - will examine training and licensing requirements in other Illinois communities to see if those measures could stand up to any legal challenges from gun rights advocates.

The board of trustees directed public health and its advisory panel to begin that task in September, Patch has learned. Recommendations from the health department of public health may come before the village board early next year, village officials said. A memo outlining the board's direction is attached in a PDF.

Oak Park is on sound legal ground to adopt its own ordinances on firearms because Illinois law grants authority to local jurisdictions to regulate firearms and ammunition, and the Illinois constitution allows for the keeping and bearing of arms, similar to wording in part of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Both state and federal law permit a broad range of firearm-related regulation for public health and safety purposes, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a San Francisco-based education and advocacy organization.

The Ban Begins

In 1983, a wheelchair-bound former Chicago cop named Hutchie Moore rolled into a Chicago courtroom during a divorce case, pulled a gun from underneath a blanket on his lap, opened fire and killed Oak Park attorney James Piszczor and Judge Henry Gentile.

That senseless act of violence, which some believed might have been prevented if guns weren’t so readily available, prompted village officials to begin looking at what it could do to keep its residents safe in their own community.

An anti-gun groundswell took hold in Oak Park, along with an emotional community debate — some of it fueled by the presence of pro-gun supporters from around the country. In 1984, trustees took the controversial step of banning guns; the vote was a close 4-3.

With the controversial vote, Oak Park joined the communities of Morton Grove, Evanston and Chicago in enacting a ban.

About the same time, a new village board was seated and trustees put the question of a handgun ban before the voters in the form of an advisory referendum.

In November 1985, the community upheld the handgun ban, essentially strengthening the majority public opinion against gun ownership, making Oak Park effectively the first town to beat the NRA, according to the Chicago Tribune. The story is attached as a PDF.

Soon after, other Illinois communities began exploring handgun bans after Laurie Dann, an emotionally disturbed woman, purchased three weapons from a Glenview gun shop, killed a child in a Winnetka classroom and wounded six others before she took her own life in the spring of 1988.

The communities of Wilmette and Winnetka adopted bans in 1989; Highland Park adopted restrictions the same year, although Morton Grove, Winnetka and Wilmette would repeal their bans after the question of handgun bans came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, when justices issued District of Columbia v. Heller.

In that decision, the Court for the first time set out the Second Amendment guarantee that a law-abiding, responsible citizen has the right to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.

In the wake of the ruling, Evanston also turned back its rules but kept in place a gun buy-back program. Regulations remain in Highland Park.

And Oak Park's ban endured a controversial challenge when, in 1988, gas station owner Donald Bennett was acquitted by a Cook County jury of possessing and firing a handgun, which was used against two robbers of his station. The village decided not to appeal.

Still, Oak Park and Chicago’s bans held steady, and both communities worked together to defend a court case that sought to overturn their bans. They successfully were upheld at the federal and appellate levels.


Then in June 2010, the Supreme Court issued McDonald v. Chicago, overturning Chicago and Oak Park’s restrictions on handgun ownership.

Rulings in Heller and McDonald stressed that some firearm regulation is constitutionally permissible, and the Second Amendment right to possess firearms is not unlimited.

Yet some of the village’s ordinances regulating weapons still remain, including restrictions on the sale, loaning, rental or give-away of firearms, assault weapons or assault ammunition.

Like the LCAV, the Brady Center Legal Action Project says other measures — like requirements for child safety locks and safe storage, licensing, training, background checks and waiting period to purchase guns — are consistent with the Heller and McDonald decisions.

“This is about curbing a public health epidemic. This is not about addressing concerns after the fact but putting in place preventative actions that take that approach,” said Julia Leftwich, the LCAV’s legal director.

Days after the Supreme Court handed down its McDonald ruling, Chicago adopted new regulations allowing residents to have handguns in their homes, measures that included registration of firearms, city and state licensing and training at firearms practice facilities even though such facilities for civilians were banned in the city. And gun shops were prohibited.

And in Illinois, other firearm legislation is being explored. Lawmakers are assessing whether to revisit adoption of a conceal-carry law; consideration was postponed last spring.

In a test vote last spring on H.R. 148, Reps. Camille Lilly (D-78th) and Karen Yarbrough (D-7th) voted against it; Rep. Angelo Saviano (R-77th) voted for it; and Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th) voted present, according to Mark Walsh, field director of the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Whatever happens on a state level, village officials in Oak Park insist they'll ensure its laws meet constitutional muster — and ensure that the community remains safe.

“It is part of the village board’s responsibility to look at public safety and for the board to consider reasonable legislation that is compliant with the Supreme Court and ensure the safety and maintain the health and welfare of individuals,” said Oak Park Village President David Pope.

Calls for comment from City of Chicago officials went unanswered; efforts to contact officials at the National Rifle Association and Illinois State Rifle Association for comment were unsuccessful.

David Brockway November 01, 2011 at 05:23 PM
44 of the 50 states issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun for self defense to any law abiding citizen who passes a background check and takes a training course. Not Illinois. 45 of the 50 state legislatures do not allow local governments to regulate firearms, but rather reserve the regulation of arms to the state government. Not Illinois. And yet liberals here continue to insist with their stubborn, extreme foolishness.
Alwin Roe November 01, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Any government official who pushes for gun control (only protecting the health and welfare of criminals at the absolute expense of their innocent victims) should be held in contempt by SCOTUS and thrown in a cell until they are removed from office, and forever banned from being in a government position where they can continue to violate human rights.
Shawn November 01, 2011 at 07:12 PM
I have to agree with Alwin. Either locked up under contempt or for treason! What makes these towns like Oak Park, IL think they're above SCOTUS ??? Sorry David I have to correct you. I do understand there are a few states that are "MAY" issue (and that these are NO good), but the overall total for states that have at least SOME form of CCW "on the books" is 49 (not 44). So this leaves ILLINOIS as the LAST state that does not have any form of CCW at all... Now the count may be 44 for the "SHALL issue" states which, yes, is VERY sad... I must say the aspect that REALLY makes my blood BOIL: So, I am an Illinois resident. I have a couple out of state carry permits that cover me to carry in approximately half of the entire country (25+ states)... This is what really makes my blood just absolutely BOIL. I can cross the border into IA or IN or MO or KY and legally be carrying my LOADED sidearm with me!!! BUT when I cross the border back into my HOME state, legally, I have to disarm myself; I guess to make it convenient for the criminals to take advantage of me... Seriously ~ that REALLY makes my blood BOIL! So other states that I VISIT entrust me to carry my loaded sidearm with me. but my own HOME state does NOT invest that same 'trust' in me -- That is F&^%ING RIDICULOUS ! It is about time HELL-ANOID (Illinois) got w/ the program and adopted a SHALL ISSUE CCW law !!!
Dpeter November 01, 2011 at 07:26 PM
You don't even know how big the legal bill for losing the MacDonald case is yet and you're ready to start all over with this stupid "Public Health" dodge? Sooner or later you're going to get your rear kicked in court again and I'd advise abiding by the law, instead of imitating George Wallace who also didn't think that SCOTUS decisions applied to him either.
Mike Weisman November 01, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Let's see, Oak Park got sued for violation of the civil rights of its residents, and it lost, and it is on the hook for legal fees to the plaintiffs' legal team. Oak Park's response: try to conceive a new way to infringe on the civil rights of its residents, one that they will again use the taxpayer's money to defend against, because anti-gun organizations suffering an endless string of losses told the Oak Park village elders that it's a good idea. Wow that's great. Will any more gun bans or other infringements make Oak Park residents safer? No, it won't. Will it make the liberals feel better? Feel Safer?
Shawn November 01, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Oh I almost forgot, add WI to that list. I can now also personally (as of today [almost forgot]) travel into WI 'packing' my LOADED SIDEARM... As WI's CCW law went into effect TODAY 1/1/2011 - and the permit(s) I have are recognized and valid there as well... Really makes me sick - when IS Illinois going to "get with the program" here ??? FORTY NINE (49) other states cannot be wrong !
Randy Felber November 01, 2011 at 08:19 PM
If Oak Park is going to use a public safety ploy they they should start at the top. Ban automobiles, swimming pools, bicycles, skateboards.... If you keep going far enough down the list you will get to injuries from guns by law abiding citizens. Way down the list.
Ted November 01, 2011 at 08:42 PM
This story on a related Oak Park news site... ----- A 32-year-old Oak Park man was shot and killed Sunday morning following an argument in the Austin neighborhood. Kyle Matthews, of the 400 block of South Elmwood Avenue, was shot in the chest and died at 2:50 a.m. at Loyola Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Matthews was approached by Arthur Bettis, 26, of Maywood, who fired shots in the 5600 block of West Bloomingdale Avenue at about 2:15 a.m., police said. ----- So let's analyze this. 1) the argument and shooting happened in Austin, 2) the victim was an Oak Park resident and 3) the shooter was from Maywood. Given that a) Austin is to the east of the purported health hazard (aka Oak Park with guns) and b) the shooter is from the west of the same purported health hazard, then c) it only makes sense, disarm the people in the middle and let both east and west walk all over them. Love the logic. FWIW, the police in Oak Park are awesome, and are probably awesome because they have their hands full from both sides of town (aka real crimes). I'd hate for that to change should thugs figure out that Oak Park is a citizen armed area and stay out on their own. And a comment to the original story - the shooting that started all this in 1983 happened outside of Oak Park, the shooter was NOT from Oak Park and in fact was a former police officer. I imagine that these rules that are proposed won't apply to police officers thereby negating the spirit.
goingbust November 01, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Public safety doesn't override the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made a very broad decision that individuals have a broad right to keep and bear arms, including handguns, with a very narrow set of restrictions, the three that they specifically pointed out as being lawful are restricting the rights of dangerous persons (felons), especially dangerous weapons such as machineguns (handguns are specifically permitted), or "sensitive places" such as schools and courts. The court found that have the right to own a handgun and specifically keep it in usable condition, unencumbered by being broken down or trigger locks. No matter how any legislative body frames its laws, they have to conform to these findings by the court. Otherwise, they will be thrown out the first time they are tested.
Michael November 01, 2011 at 10:29 PM
these officials are idiots, pure idiots.
fr8dog November 01, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Until Illinois politicians get enough IQ points to rise above room temp, I suggest IL residents do as I do. Just say NO to unconstitutional laws which violate the intent of the 2nd Amd. & carry a concealed handgun anyway without a so called “permit”.. Remember the following: 1: Better tried by 12 than carried by 6. 2: When SECONDS count, police are only MINUTES away. 3: Permission in the form of a so called “permit” is NOT required to exercise a RIGHT!
John E. Reif November 02, 2011 at 12:04 AM
I hope those people in Oak Park don't rely on their police force to protect them. When seconds count and the law is minutes or even hours away they will wish they had a concealed and carry permit to protect themselves. If Chicago and the srounding areas don't want us to have concealed and carry have all counties except Cook County carry. I have asked many law officers about their responce time. There are a lot of things that would slow them down. John Reif R.R. 3 Box 230A Carrollton, Illinois 62016 e-mail johnereif@hotmail.com
ishmo November 02, 2011 at 02:52 AM
The last I heard from the NRA lobbyist at your recent town hall meeting Oak Park is on the hook for $1.6 million for the McDonald case. Enjoy your tax/fee increases.
BHirsh November 02, 2011 at 06:37 PM
It doesn't matter what approach Oak Park or any other venue takes to circumvent precedent, the attempt will fail to pass constitutional muster. If the net effect is an unreasonable infringement on the right to bear arms, the legal theory used to reach it will fall on its face. Why is it that liberals just can't take "No." for an answer?
Steve November 02, 2011 at 07:12 PM
I hope the village and its idiots are held in contempt of McDonald. Their arrogance is to equate the lawful, vetted concealed carry permittee with the common criminal and psychopathic murders that Illinois routinely releases back onto its streets. The RKBA community has had to jump through multiple background checks to obtain a concealed carry permit. As a demographic, I don't think you will be able to find one that is more law abiding than this. Hoplophobia is the refuge of bigotry on the left.
David Greenberg November 03, 2011 at 05:04 AM
The so-called "Public Health" issue relating to gun violence is a red herring and the Oak Park Board knows it. The only "epidemic" is that of criminal activity which is emboldened because of the lack of CCW in Illinois. When criminals know that guns are banned in an area, they're drawn to it like ants to sugar. If you want crime to go down - the solution is to allow CCW and have more lawful citizens carrying firearms - this has been proven in many studies, and also borne out by FBI stats. The need for a "permit" is clearly unconstitutional. It's time to vote out every single one of these rights-violating swine. Replace them with someone who respects, preserves, protects, and defends the Constitutions of our State and Federal Governments.
Tonto November 03, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Citizens in States where they can have guns to protect themselves don't fear criminals.They fear government that fears their gun :)
Pedro B November 30, 2011 at 08:44 PM
Statistics can be made to show both sides, David. What the United States really needs is fewer (total) guns that can accidentally get into the hands of children. As much as your statistics show that crime drops, more concealed firearms also equates to more accidental deaths by minors, especially in urban areas. You have traded one death for another. Gun related crimes will always tend to be a problem in areas like Oak Park because of it's proximity to other problem areas nearby that are really gang infested/have active drug trade problems. Having everyone waltz out of their lovely frank lloyd wright homes with saturday night specials in their pants won't solve anything. More importantly, we need more people to start to actually give a rat's *** about what happens to those persons who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and don't live in the much safer north shore areas like you & I.
John C. March 07, 2012 at 08:10 AM
I guess I'm one of those "Liberals" everyone's harping about around here. But I heartily endorse an IL conceal/carry statute. BTW, I'm also an Oak Park resident & have discussed this with members of our local police department - who support such legislation. I urge my fellow OP neighbors to fight for this Constitutional privilege!


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