Supreme Ruling on Gun Control A Right to Arms City, Some Suburbs Facing 2nd Amendment Shootout

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Byline: David Beery Daily Herald Political Editor

dbeery@@dailyherald.com

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment ruling upholding individual gun owners' rights sets the stage for legal challenges to local handgun bans nationwide, including those in Chicago, Morton Grove, Wilmette, Oak Park and Evanston.

Gun-rights advocates in Illinois joined others across the country in hailing Thursday's 5-4 court ruling that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self- defense.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association, said it "puts on notice a lot of the local municipalities who pass onerous ordinances against gun ownership that sooner or later the individual citizens' rights will come to the fore."

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley voiced a sharply contrasting assessment, calling the decision "very frightening for America" and saying it raises the specter of a return to Old West shootouts.

Soon after the court announced its ruling, the Illinois Rifle Association and Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four city residents seeking to overturn Chicago's handgun ban.

The Supreme Court ruling - the justices' first major pronouncement on gun control in U.S. history - does not immediately affect Chicago's ordinance. Rather, it strikes down only the District of Columbia's 32-year-old handgun ban as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. But as Thursday's suit against Chicago indicates, gun-rights advocates view the ruling as the boost they need to erase local laws resembling the District of Columbia's.

Daley, who said the ruling will impede mayors' efforts to stanch street violence, said the city will not back down. City attorneys said Chicago, unlike the District of Columbia, can defend its ordinance, in place since 1982, by virtue of its home-rule status.

Chicago Public Schools and Chicago police officials joined Daley in saying the ruling will complicate efforts to curb gun violence. City school officials say gunfire has killed 27 students since September.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich joined in, echoing Daley's denunciation and saying he will pursue new gun control measures through legislative channels.

The National Rifle Association said Thursday it expects to challenge handgun-possession bans in Chicago's suburbs, which could mean Morton Grove, Evanston, Oak Park and Wilmette.

Wilmette's ordinance drew national scrutiny in 2004, when the village fined resident Hale DeMar $750 after he shot and wounded a middle-of-the-night intruder trying to steal a flat-screen monitor. Cook County prosecutors eventually decided against charging DeMar for having an expired firearm owner's identification card.

State lawmakers, reacting to the Wilmette events, passed a measure in 2004 stipulating that someone who shoots a home intruder cannot be convicted of violating a local handgun ban. The measure became law in 2004 after legislators overrode Blagojevich's veto. …