Suburbs with gun bans split over impact of court ruling
Local officials study the potential impact of the federal decision overturning Washington's law
Some Chicago suburbs that have passed handgun bans in the past weren't sure if those laws could be jeopardized by Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Others didn't think it would matter either way.
In the years since Morton Grove passed the first handgun ban in the nation in 1981, Evanston, Oak Park, Winnetka and Wilmette also outlawed handguns. Because of the high court's ruling that Washington, D.C., cannot ban people from owning guns, all five suburban bans could now be declared unconstitutional.
Though Chicago officials Thursday vowed to fight any challenges to its 1982 handgun ban, suburban officials said it was too soon to say whether the ruling applied to them. Some felt that overturning their bans wouldn't be a big deal. Still others were outraged, such as Oak Park Village President David Pope, who said the ruling would threaten safety in his near west suburb, which banned gun ownership in 1984.
"The ruling puts [Justice Antonin] Scalia and the four other conservative justices squarely on the side of the gang-bangers who terrorize far too many of urban American neighborhoods today," he said.
Wilmette will suspend enforcement of the ban while attorneys decide whether the ruling applies to them, said Village President Chris Canning.
Winnetka banned handguns in 1989, a year after Laurie Dann, 20, opened fire with three handguns inside an elementary school, killing an 8-year-old boy and injuring five others. Village President Ed Woodbury said Thursday that Winnetka doesn't have much gun-related crime and called the ban "an expression of the kind of community we want to be."
Morton Grove Mayor Richard Krier said the village would comply with the law.
"We are a small suburban town," he said of the north suburb, which banned the possession or sale of handguns 27 years ago. "We've never had any real handgun violence before then or since then."
Suburban gun owners and merchants hailed the Supreme Court ruling.
Hale DeMar of Wilmette gained notoriety four years ago when he shot a burglar in his home and was cited with violating the village's gun ownership ban. The case was resolved when the state passed a law enabling courts to ignore local gun ordinances in cases where the weapon was used in self-defense.
"I understand the politics of it, but as a parent of two small children who was faced with that situation, I was glad to have the handgun in my house. I would do it again," DeMar said Thursday. The burglar "weighed more than 200 pounds. I'm a 60-year-old guy and I weigh 140 pounds. What am I going to do? Argue with the guy?"