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Emanuel's gun shop ordinance sails through City Council committee

Gun shops would be allowed but kept out of most parts of Chicago and required to videotape every sale to prevent straw purchases, under a mayoral plan advanced Wednesday to satisfy a federal judge.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was under the gun to meet a court-ordered July 14 deadline to allow gun shops. He responded with sweeping regulations he considers the toughest in the nation.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety approved those rigid regulations with no illusions that it will stop the bloodbath on Chicago streets.

“I wish it could [make a difference] but, no it won’t. . . . You don’t control guns. We’re not controlling where they come from. All these kids — they get them. You just can’t stop that,” said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th). “You don’t know where they pick them up and who’s getting them to who and when they throw them away, who else gets them. Guns be used over and over again.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said the videotaping requirement may discourage customers with clean records from “selling them to the bad people.” That’s the definition of a straw purchase.

“Now, you could connect it to those people and be able to apprehend them if something happens with that gun because you’ll have the videotape,” Burnett said.

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) set her sights on the requirement that Chicago gun stores sell just one handgun a month to a buyer.

“Right now, you can go in if you were fronting for someone else with your good background and buy 100 guns at one time,” Graham said. “We’re changing that to one gun a month. At least it stops the flow of guns being able to get into the illegal hands of people using them.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said Chicago has responded to a federal judge’s mandate with “one of the strongest ordinances in the country.” But when 20 percent of the guns recovered by Chicago Police are coming from four suburban stores, the city cannot continue to go it alone.

“I want to know why the county isn’t stepping up? Why aren’t they here? Why aren’t they introducing a similar ordinance? And why aren’t the home-rule municipalities doing the same thing?” Pawar said. “It’s easy to throw darts at Chicago and say we’ve got a gun problem and we’ve got a murder problem when the guns are coming from outside of Chicago.”

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, accused Emanuel of making the gun shop ordinance so restrictive it will “make sure there are no gun shops” in Chicago.

“The license is $3,800. Your business transactions are videotaped. The costs are so high, nobody can possibly make a living doing that, so no one is going to do it. They priced themselves out of the market,” Pearson said.

“It’s a right to buy a firearm,” he said. “If you pass a background check, you shouldn’t have to be videotaped. People don’t want their business transactions videotaped. They’re saying this is what you have to do to open gun shops, when it’s just a bunch of restrictions designed to make sure no gun shop opens in Chicago. Nobody will open a gun shop in Chicago and nobody would want to buy there if they did.”

The ordinance approved Wednesday would not only require gun store owners to videotape every sale to deter legal customers from buying firearms for crooks.

They also would be required to submit a safety plan outlining exterior lighting, surveillance cameras and alarm systems, as well as storage of guns and ammunition. Their employees would have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and training on identifying potential gun traffickers.

The stores would have to maintain a log of gun sales in which a firearm was later recovered in a crime. That would help employees identify potential gun traffickers if they tried to buy more guns, according to the city.

Special-use zoning would keep gun stores out of 99.5 percent of Chicago, limiting them to pockets of the North, West and South sides and keeping them at least 500 feet away from all schools and parks.

The mayor’s ordinance also would limit Chicago gun stores to selling one handgun a month to a buyer. If the city revoked a store’s business license for violating the ordinance, it could not reopen at the same location for three years.

Last month, Emanuel denied that the videotaping requirement was an attempt to intimidate licensed gun owners.

“The attempt is to deal with straw purchases and illicit traffic. But, I would like to remind you . . . you go to an ATM machine and you take cash out, it’s videotaped. It’s about protection,” the mayor said then. “We think it’s enforceable. We think it’s smart. We think it’s tough. . . . We think it meets the standards set out, but does it in a way that’s consistent with the direction the court set forth, but also with the direction that the people of Chicago set forth. They want their streets safe.”