A federal appeals court struck down restrictions on the placement and operation of gun ranges imposed by the city of Chicago as unconstitutional on Wednesday.
The ruling is the latest in Chicago's fight with federal courts over the issue of allowing gun ranges within city limits. In 2011, a federal court struck down the city's complete ban on gun ranges in Ezell v. City of Chicago. In response the city passed a new law which legalized ranges but forced them to be located in manufacturing districts—at least 100 feet apart from other gun ranges, at least 500 feet away from residential areas, schools, churches, and a number of other special exceptions. Those under 18 were also barred from being able to enter any range within city limits.
The same plaintiffs who defeated the city in 2011 then filed a new suit against the city claiming the restrictions were unconstitutional. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed on Wednesday, striking down all three restrictions in question.
In a ruling that described Chicago's gun range law as an "elaborate scheme of regulations," the court ordered the city to eliminate the regulations that were challenged.
"Only 2.2% of the city's total acreage is even theoretically available [for gun range development], and the commercial viability of any of these parcels is questionable—so much so that no shooting range yet exists," the court said in its ruling. "This severely limits Chicagoans' Second Amendment right to maintain proficiency in firearm use via target practice at a range. To justify these barriers, the City raised only speculative claims of harm to public health and safety. That's not nearly enough to survive the heightened scrutiny that applies to burdens on Second Amendment rights."
"The age restriction also flunks heightened scrutiny. We held in Ezell I that the Second Amendment protects the right to learn and practice firearm use in the controlled setting of a shooting range. The City insists that no person under age 18 enjoys this right. That's an extraordinarily broad claim, and the City failed to back it up."
The Second Amendment Foundation, which helped bring the case against Chicago, celebrated the court's decision.
"We are delighted with the outcome of this lengthy case," Alan M. Gottlieb, the group's founder, said. "The extremes to which the city has gone in an attempt to narrow its compliance with the Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago can only be described as incredible stubbornness. In the six-and-a-half years since the high court ruling in our McDonald case, the city has had ample opportunity to modify its regulations. Instead, Chicago has resisted reasonableness."
"This nonsense has got to stop."
Gottlieb called the win a victory for gun owners.
"Today's ruling is a victory for citizens of Chicago who want to exercise their rights," he said, "and particularly for Rhonda Ezell, who has been steadfast in her resolve."