“No Firearm May Be Sold, Acquired or Otherwise Transferred Within [Chicago], Except Through Inheritance”

That’s what Chicago Municipal Code § 8-20-100 provides (with some exceptions for sales to police officers, and loans at shooting ranges). Today’s Illinois Ass’n of Firearms Retailers v. City of Chicago (N.D. Ill. Jan. 6, 2014) holds that this violates the Second Amendment (some paragraph breaks added):

[The Second Amendment] right must also include the right to acquire a firearm …. Chicago’s ordinance … outright ban[s] legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms, and at the same time the evidence does not support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes that the ordinance tries to serve….

The City argues … that these ordinances do not ban acquisition, but merely regulate where acquisition may occur. It is true that some living on the outskirts of the City might very well currently live closer to gun stores now than they would absent these ordinances. But Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011) [which struck down a ban on gun ranges in Chicago -EV], makes clear that this type of argument “assumes that the harm to a constitutional right is measured by the extent to which it can be exercised in another jurisdiction. That’s a profoundly mistaken assumption.” It was no answer there that plenty of gun ranges were located in the neighboring suburbs, or even right on the border of Chicago and the suburbs. Instead, the Seventh Circuit drew on First Amendment jurisprudence to reason that Second Amendment rights must be guaranteed within a specified geographic unit — be it a city or a State.

Indeed, this reasoning makes sense, because if all cities and municipalities can prohibit gun sales and transfers within their own borders, then all gun sales and transfers may be banned across a wide swath of the country if this principle is carried forward to its natural conclusion. Therefore, just as in Ezell, where the fact “[t]hat residents may travel outside the jurisdiction to fulfill the training requirement is irrelevant to the validity of the ordinance inside the City,” id. at 712 (Rovner, J., concurring in the judgment), so too here: the fact that Chicagoans may travel outside the City to acquire a firearm does not bear on the validity of the ordinance inside the City….

The City … contends that inner-city gang members and criminals find it hard to travel to the suburbs, thus making it more difficult for them or their likely straw purchasers to shop at gun stores. Dr. Philip Cook, one of the City’s experts, attributes this travel difficulty to the “parochial[ism]” of gang members, and CPD Commander Gorman believes that making the trip to the suburbs is dangerous for gang members because they may have to cross rival gang boundaries both in Chicago and in the suburbs. So through these ordinances, Chicago intentionally increases the distance that Chicagoans have to travel to get to gun stores in order to tack on extra transaction costs (measured in time, effort, and danger) to any criminal attempt to buy guns. These extra transaction costs, the argument goes, deter would-be criminals from buying guns.

But these transaction costs are also borne by law-abiding residents of these neighborhoods, who are equally parochial and may suffer many of the same dangers by crossing into gang-infested territory. So whatever burdens the City hopes to impose on criminal users also falls squarely on law-abiding residents who want to exercise their Second Amendment right. What’s more, it is doubtful that keeping criminal users away from legitimate retail stores will choke the supply of guns to those users. According to a survey of convicted felons proffered by the City itself, “[l]egitimate firearms retailers play a minor and unimportant role as direct sources of the criminal handgun supply.” [Details omitted. -EV]

Thus, it is likely that residents who seek to legally buy a gun bear more of the share of the added transaction costs in time, effort, and danger than gang members or would-be criminals, who rarely buy guns from legitimate dealers directly. Given the close fit between justification and means that the City must demonstrate, it cannot justify its ban on legitimate gun sales and transfers with overinclusive means that impact more law-abiding citizens than criminals. And without a valid explanation for how its chosen means actually achieves its goal of reducing criminal access to guns, the City’s first justification fails….

It is true that, with a sales-and-transfer ban, the Chicago police would not have to worry about investigating burglaries of gun dealers or devoting manpower to preventing those burglaries. But a blanket ban on all gun dealers to solve the burglary problem sweeps too broadly. To address the City’s concern that gun stores make ripe targets for burglary, the City can pass more targeted ordinances aimed at making gun stores more secure — for example, by requiring that stores install security systems, gun safes, or trigger locks …. Or the City can consider designating special zones for gun stores to limit the area that police would have to patrol to deter burglaries. Such regulations would be a far closer fit with the City’s desired goal of reducing burglaries at gun stores, as opposed to a blanket ban on the operation of all gun stores (even the most secure ones) within Chicago. The general danger that some gun stores may pose does not justify banning all gun sales and transfers within Chicago….

In sum, given the rigorous showing that Ezell demands, the City has not demonstrated that allowing gun sales and transfers within city limits creates such genuine and serious risks to public safety that flatly prohibiting them is justified.

The result seems quite right to me.

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