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Quick Fix Didn’t Moot Chicago Gun Law Suit

(CN) - Chicago's restrictions on gun ranges, implemented in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision striking down the city's handgun ban, may violate the Second Amendment, a federal judge ruled.

The Supreme Court struck down Chicago's de-facto ban on handgun possession on June 28, 2010, holding that the Second Amendment also applies to the states.

Afterward, the city passed a new gun ordinance it said complied with the decision. The new law permitted handgun possession for people who attend a gun range for training, but banned publicly accessible gun ranges within the city limits.

Rhonda Ezell sued the city, alleging that the ordinance's ban on firing ranges was unconstitutional and sought a preliminary injunction against it. The court denied the motion, ruling that gun owners' rights were not burdened by having to travel to one of 14 firing ranges located within 50 miles of the city limits. Ezell appealed this ruling.

Then on July 6, 2011, the Chicago City Council allowed firing ranges to operate in the city, subject to restrictions, by deleting the offending section of the ordinance. One hour before the council changed the law, however, the 7th Circuit granted Ezell's earlier request for an injunction with an emergency reversal ruling.

The city moved to dismiss the case as moot, asserting that the council had given Ezell all the relief she sought. But Ezell claimed that the city's new web of restrictions on firing ranges effectively operates as a new ban on gun ranges.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall refused to dismiss, saying the case is not moot because it is unclear whether the amended statute will end the city's discrimination.

Citing the 7th Circuit's opinion, which granted Ezell's motion for preliminary injunction, the court said that the right to possess firearms "implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use. The core right wouldn't mean much without the training and practice that make it effective."

The federal appeals court had also noted that the injunction should prohibit the city "from using its zoning code to exclude firing ranges from locating anywhere in the city."

Kendall said that "the new ordinance undoubtedly burdens anyone trying to open or use a firing range."

"Consequently, whether the new ordinance's restrictions are so burdensome as to effectively ban firing ranges or invade an individual's Second Amendment rights is an issue that must be hashed out in litigation," she concluded.

As such, the court wants further evidence before determining whether the requirement that gun ranges be in "certain types of zones and 1,000 feet from residential areas, churches and liquor stores leaves any areas for gun ranges."

Ezell must file her amended complaint by Oct. 15, 2011.

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