Chicago Suburb Defends Gun Registration Law
Yesterday I wrote about a federal appeals court declaring that a Chicago suburb's anti-gun laws were perfectly constitutional.
Since then, I've had the chance to speak with a spokesman for Cicero, Ill., population approximately 83,000 and onetime home of Al Capone, who said the town is intent on defending its firearm-related ordinance from legal challenges.
"We want to use every means within our disposal to be able to combat crime in our communities," spokeman Elio Montenegro said. "We see the proliferation of firearms as a hazard to the safety and health of our citizens. At every opportunity we want to be able to regulate weapons so that we can protect the safety and health of our citizens."
Cicero's weapons-related laws are among the most restrictive in the country. Cicero makes it illegal to possess "any slingshot" (sorry, kids) or any "laser sight accessory" (sorry, target shooters). Non-dealer firearm transfers are prohibited. Carrying a "concealed" knife is prohibited. The unlicensed sale of a "Bowie knife" is prohibited. And, of course, "all firearms" must be registered and the registration renewed every two years.
A few years ago, Cicero's mandatory registration law would have been unremarkable: after all, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and some of its other suburbs had extremely strict laws too. (San Francisco tried to follow suit, but was slapped down because state law didn't permit it.)
But the decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals came a year after the Supreme Court tossed out the District of Columbia's handgun ban in the D.C. v. Heller case, saying the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms. The appeals court ruled last week: "There is a critical distinction between the D.C. ordinance struck down in Heller and the Cicero ordinance. Cicero has not prohibited gun possession in the town. Instead, it has merely regulated gun possession..."
"We're very confident and pleased that we went ahead and defended the ordinances, because we felt that all along that we had that right," Montenegro, the Cicero spokesman, said. "We're pleased that the court agreed we had the authority."
Montenegro added: "The end result has been that we've seen a 70 percent reduction in gang homicide in the last five years. We attribute it in part to these type of ordinances." (He was unable, however, to say when the law was enacted. If it dates back 30 years, it's unlikely it was the cause of a reduction in gang homicides.)
It's true that after Heller's decision, some Chicago-area municipalities including Morton Grove, Evanston, Wilmette, and Winnetka have rescinded their handgun bans, and Chicago's is probably headed for the Supreme Court.
Cicero's law is different in two ways: first, it's mandatory registration instead of a ban, and second, it applies to all firearms, including rifles and shotguns. So, although gun rights supporters may not like it, even if we assume the Second Amendment applies to the states, current law seems to offer Montenegro a defensible position. More on this tomorrow.
Declan McCullagh is a correspondent for CBSNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can bookmark the Taking Liberties site here, or subscribe to the RSS feed.
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