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Facing court order, City Council votes to allow gun shops

Under the gun to satisfy a federal judge, the City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to allow gun shops, but keep them out of most neighborhoods and require them to videotape every sale to prevent straw purchases.

“If it was up to me as the person who helped establish the Brady bill, the five-day waiting period and the assault weapons ban, I wouldn’t take this step,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the 48-to-0 vote.

“But given that we’re under court order, we decided we’d take the six months to come up with a way of designing an ordinance that meets the judge’s requirements, but also does not undermine public safety.”

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, was even more direct.

“We had a gun to our head,” he said.

Emanuel had until July 14 to satisfy a court order to allow gun shops after U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang overturned the city’s ban.

The mayor responded with sweeping regulations he considers the toughest in the nation.

On Wednesday, the City Council reluctantly approved those rigid regulations.

Gun store owners would be required to videotape every sale to deter legal customers from buying firearms for crooks. They 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 to be used in the event that a firearm was later recovered in a crime. Special-use zoning would keep gun stores out of 99.5 percent of Chicago and 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.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, has accused Emanuel of making the 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,” Pearson said.

“It’s a right to buy a firearm. If you pass a background check, you shouldn’t have to be videotaped. People don’t want their business transactions videotaped…. It’s just a bunch of restrictions designed to make sure no gun shop opens in Chicago.”

Emanuel is well aware of the city’s history of losing court challenges on gun laws and he obviously expects another lawsuit. But he called the ordinance “smart, tough and enforceable,” adding, “I consider that good public safety, not punitive.”