CHICAGO— A federal judge Monday stripped away a key element of Chicago's gun ordinance, ruling that it was unconstitutional to prohibit licensed gun stores from operating in the city.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang said Chicago had failed to persuade him that banning the sale of guns by licensed dealers was necessary to reduce gun violence that has plagued the city.
The ruling also would make it legal for individuals to transfer ownership of firearms as gifts or in private sales as long as the recipients were over 18 and had state firearm owner identification cards.
Chicago once had one of the strongest handgun bans in the country, making it a primary target of the National Rifle Assn. Overturning the ban on retail gun stores and private gun sales was the last major hurdle gun rights groups faced.
The latest ruling came one day after Illinois began accepting applications from residents who want to carry concealed firearms in public.
Chang delayed his ruling from taking effect to allow the city time to appeal.
Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city, said in a statement Monday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel "strongly disagrees" with the ruling and has instructed city attorneys "to consider all options to better regulate the sale of firearms within the city's borders."
"Every year, Chicago police recover more illegal guns than officers in any city in the country, a factor of lax federal laws as well as lax laws in Illinois and surrounding states related to straw purchasing and the transfer of guns," Drew said. "We need stronger gun safety laws, not increased access to firearms within the city."
Since the U.S. Supreme Court forced Chicago to rewrite its firearms ordinance in 2010, the city has faced a series of legal blows from lower courts.
Chang found that the city's virtual "blanket ban" on sales and transfers of firearms violated Americans' 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
He acknowledged that Chicago had a serious problem with gun violence, but he said the city had not demonstrated how allowing the sale of firearms would pose a "genuine and serious risk" to public safety.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times