NRA Cheers City Gun Ordinance Rewrites, Stiffer Penalties Near CTA Stops

By Ted Cox on September 9, 2013 12:25pm 

 Ald. James Balcer talks with the NRA's Todd Vandermyde after Monday's Public Safety Committee meeting.
Ald. James Balcer talks with the NRA's Todd Vandermyde after Monday's Public Safety Committee meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A City Council committee OK'd new gun-control ordinances Monday, to the cheers of a National Rifle Association lobbyist who called it "a great day for gun owners in the City of Chicago."

The measures passed the Public Safety Committee and headed for approval by the full City Council on Wednesday.

One amendment would bring city laws into agreement with the state's new concealed-carry law. NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said it basically "gutted" the remnants of the handgun ban passed by the Daley administration and overturned in the courts.

The other new ordinance would greatly stiffen penalties for gun violations committed within 100 feet of any public-transportation site, including buildings, train stations and bus stops. As it did not alter the concealed-carry law, but only pertained to gun-possession crimes that are already illegal, Vandermyde said, "They're going after the bad guys on that issue."

Although expressing reservations on a few details, Vandermyde said, "That's a great day for gun owners in the City of Chicago."

Rose Kelly, senior counsel in the city's Law Department, said for the most part the basic ordinance change tidies up conflicts with the state's new concealed-carry law, starting with an end to the city's gun-permit requirement.

"We are now preempted," Kelly said, by the state's law setting standards for concealed carry.

Kelly added, however, that it is still illegal to sell or transfer firearms within the city limits, and any transfers by a Chicago gun owner outside the city still need to be reported within 48 hours.

Vandermyde took issue with those requirements, and to city bans on laser sights. He also said a ban on armor-piercing ammunition is "overly broad," in that many hunting rifles fire bullets that can pierce the lighter bulletproof vests worn by most officers on the street.

Yet he pulled up short of saying the NRA would actively fight those issues in court, saying, "We will wait and see" what other "refinements" the city makes in its gun laws.

 The NRA's Todd Vandermyde called a Council committee's approval of new gun legislation "a great day for gun owners in the City of Chicago."
The NRA's Todd Vandermyde called a Council committee's approval of new gun legislation "a great day for gun owners in the City of Chicago."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

The Public Transportation Safety Zone Ordinance greatly increases penalties for gun offenses committed within 100 feet of a public-transportation site, including bus stops.

Minor gun offenses would earn a fine of $500-$1,000 and a jail term of 30 days to six months, with penalties escalating for additional offenses. More serious gun crimes would earn an initial fine of $1,000-$5,000 and a jail term of 120 days to six months, again with escalating fines and jail terms for additional offenses.

Kelly said the aim of the ordinance was straightforward, in that "we're increasing the penalty for violations." Because the increased penalties apply only to what all already agree are gun crimes, not to legal gun owners possessing a Firearm Owner's Identification Card, Vandermyde said the NRA has no complaints on the legislation.

"As a city, we have a responsibility to protect riders of buses and trains, especially the many students who rely on the CTA as a key mode of transportation, from the dangers of gun violence," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "I am very pleased the Public Safety Committee has taken the next step in creating new Public Transportation Safety Zones and increasing penalties for serious weapon and gun-related offenses near bus stops, bus shelters and "L" stations and on buses and trains."

Vandermyde did spar with Ald. James Balcer (11th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) over proposed requirements that households with minors have all guns either locked with a trigger mechanism or in a safe.

"It's common sense," Balcer said.

Vandermyde said gun owners should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to keep their guns safe from children.

Vandermyde explained his conflicts with Burke by saying, "He receives taxpayer-funded bodyguards, and he doesn't like us calling him out on it."

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