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7th Circuit Shoots Down Firing Range Laws

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals shot down key provisions of Chicago's embattled gun laws, striking down a 500-foot zoning restriction for shooting ranges and a ban on children from entering them.

The decision marked another defeat for Chicago in its fight over gun use since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out its ban on handguns in 2010. The city responded by outlawing shooting ranges, but the Seventh Circuit invalidated that law.

"Range training is not categorically outside the Second Amendment," the court said. "To the contrary, it lies close to the core of the individual right of armed defense."

No Evidence for Restrictions

The court said the city's justification for its zoning restriction -- prohibiting shooting ranges within 500 feet of residences, schools, or places of worship -- was based on "lawyer's talk" more than evidence. The city presented a "weak" defense of its argument that firing ranges attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead contamination, and carry a risk of fire.

The court said that any law burdening the Second Amendment is subject to heightened scrutiny, and the city's restriction did not survive scrutiny. For example, the court said, there was little evidence that firing ranges attract gun thieves.

"Common sense suggests that law-enforcement ranges probably do not attract many thieves, but the City's theft-protection rationale for these zoning rules is so woefully unsupported that the distinction between law-enforcement and commercial ranges doesn't carry much weight," wrote Judge Diane Sykes, a judge on Donald Trump's Supreme Court shortlist.

Minors' Second Amendment Rights

The court said the city made a "bold" claim that minors do not have Second Amendment rights. The city relied largely on "common sense" about public safety and the safety of children," the panel said, "yet even common sense does not lie with the City."

Noting there was no case precedent on the issue, the court said the city must have been surprised when its own witness testified against the ban on children. The witness said the ordinance was "inartfully" drafted and that shooting ranges are "a good place" to teach young people how to handle a gun.

"In fact, my own son took a shooting class when he was 12, so I'm well aware of the fact it's okay to teach a young person how to shoot a gun properly," Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel said.

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