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Friday, October 24, 2014

Court Upholds Part of Chicago's Amended Firing Range Ordinance

After its blanket firing range ban was held unconstitutional, Chicago adopted new zoning restrictions, construction requirements, and business regulations for firing ranges in the City. In a new Second Amendment challenge, the plaintiffs in Ezell v. City of Chicago argued that the regulations violated their right to acquire and maintain proficiency in the use of firearms. The City argued that the laws are constitutional because they regulate rather than restrict constitutional rights and, in a recent decision, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois upheld many of Chicago’s firing range regulations.

Since the zoning restrictions, construction requirements, and business operation regulations clearly implicated the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, the court analyzed each individual regulation by weighing the burden it placed on plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights against the evidence the City relied on to justify it.

a    Zoning Restrictions

The first zoning restriction the court examined limited the location of firing ranges to manufacturing districts with special use approval. The court held that this regulation was unconstitutional because the restrictions were too burdensome in light of the public interest being served by the regulation.

The second zoning restriction required firing ranges to be at least 500 feet from residential zones, schools, day-care facilities, places of worship, museums, libraries, or hospitals and at least 100 feet from any other firing range. The court upheld this requirement because it seeks to protect important interests and is not a substantial burden on Second Amendment rights.

b    Construction Requirements

Next, the court evaluated the requirements that firing ranges have ballistic-proof walls and doors, separate interlocked ventilation systems, and sound limits. The court found that these requirements were constitutional because the regulations are reasonable, directly advance the safety of citizens, and are supported by substantial evidence. Further, the court stated that these requirements “merely regulate” and impose only a minor burden on Second Amendment rights.

c    Business Operations

Finally, the court considered the constitutionality of the regulations restricting the business operations of firing ranges. The court held that the regulations that no person under the age of 18 be permitted in a shooting range facility, that all managers, range masters, and employees possess FOID cards, and that a range master be present during all operating hours were constitutional because the City’s rationale is sufficient to justify the small burden each regulation places on the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights.

In contrast, the restriction permitting ranges to operate only between 9:00 am and 8:00 pm was not constitutional. The City failed to provide evidence “tending to show that a range has a greater impact on traffic or police inquiries than any other business or location” or that “criminal activity involving a firing range can be expected to increase after 8 p.m.” 

Post Authored by Dan Bolin & Caitlyn Sharrow, Ancel Glink


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