Are Chicago’s gun laws that strict? An explainer
Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas that left nearly 60 people dead and hundreds wounded prompted the Trump administration to once again shine a spotlight on Chicago. The White House’s view? That the city has the strictest gun laws but still has soaring homicide numbers.
“I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the day after the shooting.
That’s once again inserted Chicago into a national conversation about gun laws, crime and the link between the two. Does Chicago have the strictest gun laws in the nation, as the White House suggests? And why haven’t the laws on the books prevented crime? We examine.
Does Chicago have the strictest gun laws in the country?
It did after Mayor Jane Byrne pushed through the ban on firearms not already registered with Chicago police in March 1982. The city’s ban lasted until 2010, when the Supreme Court struck it down by a majority vote of 5-4. Two years later, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago struck down as unconstitutional the state’s ban on carrying concealed firearms. In 2013, the General Assembly passed a law making Illinois the last state to grant its residents the right to concealed carry. Right now, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco have stricter gun laws on the books, experts say.
A refresher course on gun ownership in the city, and concealed carry
City residents can own firearms but with several conditions: You must be 21 years old and possess a firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card and concealed carry license, both issued by Illinois State Police.
Prior to getting a concealed carry license, residents must complete a 16-hour training course, which includes a gun range test that residents must pass, as well as coursework on gun safety. They are also subject to a background check and must pay a $150 application fee. Applicants may be denied a concealed carry license, or have law enforcement agencies object to their applications, if they have particular criminal convictions.
Those who keep guns in the home must hold only a valid FOID card. Gun owners who carry a firearm outside the home must have an FOID and a concealed carry permit.
How are Illinois’ gun laws different from other states?
Among gun rights advocates, Illinois is still viewed as having very restrictive gun laws. It is, for example, one of five states that prohibit gun owners from carrying handguns that are visible to the public, while 31 other states allow for what’s known as the “open carry” of a firearm — no permit required — though in some cases the gun must be unloaded.
In Illinois, by law, those with concealed carry permits are prohibited from bringing firearms into schools, public parks and playgrounds, government buildings, all public transit, and any building with a “no gun” sign or sticker clearly visible at the entrance.
Also, Illinois doesn’t recognize out-of-state-issued concealed carry permits, so out-of-towner permit holders can’t legally walk around town with a gun in their coat. But non-Illinois residents, if they’re driving through the state, can have it in the car.
Have many people have concealed carry permits in Illinois?
As of June, there were 246,769 active concealed carry license holders in Illinois, according to Illinois State Police statistics.
Can you legally purchase a semi-automatic or fully automatic rifle in Illinois?
Stephen Paddock, the gunman in the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting who ultimately took his life, had numerous weapons in his hotel room. A dozen of them included “bump stocks,” attachments that can effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automated weapons.
In Illinois, fully automatic rifles are illegal to sell, purchase, carry or own in Illinois, except for law enforcement, military members and federally licensed gun dealers. Such rifles — which fire as long as the trigger is pulled — can be purchased only with the approval of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Those who apply with the ATF are subject to an extensive background check, pay an annual fee and must receive permission from the highest law enforcement authority where they live. Semi-automatic rifles can be legally purchased in the state, so long as someone holds a FOID card.
So why haven’t Chicago’s laws halted or slowed the number of shootings and homicides?
Police and prosecutors agree that the city’s black market for illegal guns has thrived in no small part because of street gangs and their drug operations. Firearms, mostly handguns, are often purchased at private gun shows in neighboring states and at gun shops in Southern states with more relaxed gun laws. Those firearms are then sold on Chicago streets at a premium.
The Associated Press contributed.
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