Chicago Can't Ban Minors From Gun Ranges

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 20, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Chicago was home to 700 homicides in 2016. (And that milestone was reached by December 1.) The city has long been trying to curb gun violence, but has received judicial pushback on its strict gun control laws. So it's perhaps no surprise that the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a comprehensive statute regulating gun ranges in the city of Chicago, a law that included a ban on anyone under 18 from entering a shooting range.

So what avenues are left for a city trying to diminish its death toll?

Dramatic Limits

The Chicago statute at issue had three contentious provisions:

  1. A zoning restriction allowing gun ranges only as special uses in manufacturing districts.
  2. A zoning restriction prohibiting gun ranges within 100 feet of another range or within 500 feet of a residential district, school, place of worship, and multiple other uses.
  3. A provision barring anyone under age 18 from entering a shooting range.

The court knocked down both zoning restrictions, saying they "dramatically limit" the ability to place a shooting range within city limits:

Under the combined effect of these two regulations, only 2.2% of the city's total acreage is even theoretically available, and the commercial viability of any of these parcels is questionable--so much so that no shooting range yet exists. 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.

On Second Thought

The court also ruled that the city had failed to justify its blanket ban on minors at gun ranges.

Banning anyone under age 18 from entering a firing range prevents older adolescents and teens from accessing adult-supervised firearm instruction in the controlled setting of a range. There's zero historical evidence that firearm training for this age group is categorically unprotected. At least the City hasn't identified any, and we've found none ourselves.

Relying on the Supreme Court case of Heller (that ruled individuals have a right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes like self-defense within the home) and some treatises from the 1800s, the Seventh Circuit found that older adolescents receiving gun training in a controlled environment can be a good thing. We're not sure all of Chicago's citizens would agree.

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