“After a violent Easter weekend, Chicago aldermen on Monday reluctantly agreed to satisfy a federal court ruling by relaxing the city’s rigid rules on where shooting ranges could be located and who could use them.
If the full City Council approves the changes advanced by the License and Zoning Committee, shooting ranges would be authorized to locate in business, commercial, and manufacturing districts — and in select planned manufacturing districts — provided operators obtain a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The process to obtain that permit includes notifying surrounding residents, who would get a chance to voice their objections at a public hearing.
The amended ordinance also allows individuals under the age of 18 to enter shooting ranges, if accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian or certified firearms instructor.
No commercial shooting ranges exist in Chicago, primarily because the rules are too tight. Currently, gun ranges are permitted only in industrial areas — and only if they are located at least 100 feet away from another range, and at least 500 feet away from places like private residences, schools, day care centers, houses of worship, liquor stores, parks, libraries, museums and hospitals.
In January, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that those restrictions are illegal and that there was no reason to bar minors accompanied by responsible adults.
Although the city’s hands were tied, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) made no effort to contain her anger.
“I appreciate the strength of the gun lobby and the gun laws in this country. [But] I do not understand why our previous attempt to restrict the locations of shooting ranges is being eliminated, particularly the limitation on schools, day care, liquor, libraries, museums and hospitals,” Smith said.
“We can restrict people from being around kids with liquor and things like that, but not guns? … What’s an alderman to do in a business district? I mean B-1 — that’s everywhere. [So is] B-2,” she said, referring the abbreviations for business-district zones.”