Wilmette Suspends Local Handgun Ban
POSTED: 2:47 pm CDT June 27, 2008
WILMETTE, Ill. -- Wilmette has suspended enforcement of its 19-year-old ordinance banning handgun possession in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that appears to invalidate such bans.
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In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns, a prohibition similar to those used in several major cities, including Chicago, and a handful of suburbs including Wilmette, Evanston, Winnetka and Oak Park.
"The Law Department and the Police Department have suspended enforcement of the ordinance pending further review by the Village Board," Wilmette village attorney Tim Frenzer said Thursday. "Based on the decision today, at a minimum it calls into serious question the continued viability of the ordinance."
Frenzer said questions remain about how directly the court's decision will impact local gun laws in Wilmette and other parts of the country. Washington is not a state, and each state has its own legal language governing the right to bear arms.
"That aside, the opinion will require further review and discussion by the Village Board, but it's prudent at this point to suspend enforcement of it," Frenzer said.
Wilmette's law, enacted in 1989, levied fines of up to $750 for handgun possession and allowed the village to seek a judge's order to have seized weapons destroyed.
Frenzer said he did not know exactly how many times the law has been invoked, but said its use is rare.
The last case he recalls involved a 2003 incident in which a resident, Hale DeMar, was cited after using a handgun to shoot and wound a burglar in his home. The case mobilized state gun right groups and led to the passage of a law that gave gun owners a defense to local prohibitions if the weapon was used in self-defense.
Wilmette's charges against DeMar were eventually dropped. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Wilmette Police Chief George Carpenter declined to comment on the high court's ruling, saying he had not yet had a chance to read the decision or review it with village staff.
NBC5's Phil Rogers reported that Wilmette was not the only community with big decisions to make in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision. Six Chicago area communities: Wilmette, Winnetka, Evanston, Chicago, Oak Park and Morton Grove, have outright handgun bans, dating back to 1981, which are now apparently illegal.
Eight other communities: Highland Park, Deerfield, Northbrook, River Grove, Westmont, Forest Park, Elk Grove Village and Niles, ban the sale or transfer of handguns within their city limits.
On Friday, the Chicago Tribune called for the repeal of the Second Amendment. But barring that, Rogers reported, the Supreme Court's decision seems to leave little wiggle room for refinement of existing laws.
"It's going to be very challenging, I think, for municipalities to hold on to the overall ban on a handgun," Frenzer said.
As local communities tried to determine exactly how the ruling affected them, many activists made it clear that they were not prepared to take "no" for an answer.
Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson declared that if the law means more gun stores, he would fight to have a say as to where they are located. Jackson also likened the fight against gun violence to the struggle for civil rights.
"We have legalized access to weapons of mass destruction," Jackson said. "We have become the most violent nation on earth. We make the most guns and we shoot them."
Wilmette Suspends Local Handgun Ban - News Story - WMAQ | Chicago