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City, County Toughen Gun Laws With Deadline Looming

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 17, 2013 7:45PM

Guy J. Sagi /
The Chicago City Council and Cook County Board acted fast to strengthen gun laws with a window of opportunity under Illinois' concealed carry law set to close.

The City Council voted unanimously to amend Chicago's assault weapons ban, specifically naming weapons and their equivalents, and imposing higher fines for gun crimes near school zones and along the "Safe Passage" routes many Chicago Public Schools students will travel to get to their new schools in the upcoming school year.

Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman lists the following weapons as banned under the ordinance: "any semiautomatic rifle or handgun that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine and has at least one military feature; any shotgun capable of accepting a detachable magazine, has at least one military feature or has a fixed capacity of more than five rounds, and any weapon with a fixed magazine of more than 15 rounds. Military features include 'telescoping stocks, pistol grips, grenade launchers, barrel shrouds.' "

Anyone caught with a gun, ammunition or other "dangerous weapon" in the school or Safe Passage zones face a fine of up to $5,000 and 30 days in jail for the first offense to up to $20,000 and six months in prison for the third violation.

The County Board, meanwhile, voted to ban gun sales to people under 21 and limited how gun owners with children living at home can store ammunition. The vote was 11-3 in favor and may face a court challenge. Under state law, residents age 18 and older may buy long guns like rifles and shotguns and may purchase handguns at 21. The moves by City Council and the County Board were made before a Friday deadline under the state's new concealed carry law giving municipalities 10 days after the bill became law to act. The "home rule" powers of Chicago and other cities are protected under the concealed carry law.

Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist in Illinois, said the county board's move is possibly illegal and only the state has the right to restrict the ownership of handguns and transporting firearms. Vandermyde called the City Council vote an attempt to "put the best face on a major crime problem."