CHICAGO (AP) — Officials in Chicago — where gun violence has persisted despite some of the nation's toughest handgun restrictions — are attempting an end run around a new state law that allows the public possession of concealed firearms.
A city council committee approved an ordinance Friday that would require Chicago bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to ban firearms. Those that don't could lose their liquor licenses. The proposal, which still must be voted on by the full council, is stricter than the law approved by the Illinois Legislature earlier this year. That measure bans firearms from establishments where alcohol sales account for at least half of revenues.
"The City Council believes that booze and bullets don't mix," Chicago Alderman Ed Burke said.
The effort is the latest in the ongoing tug-of-war between officials in Illinois' urban areas who say looser gun laws will lead to more crime and lawmakers and gun-rights advocates who say restrictions violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said city officials didn't have the authority to circumvent state law. He also told the Chicago Sun-Times that aldermen were trying to create "two classes of citizens" because under the proposed ordinance, retired law enforcement officers and an establishment's owners and tenants would be allowed to carry their weapons.
"My life — the life of my family — is not worth protecting when I'm trying to get to and from a restaurant?" Vandermyde said. "Why are we supposed to be second-class citizens put at a disadvantage because somebody doesn't like the law that was passed?"
Illinois was the last state in the nation to still have a ban on the concealed carry of firearms when a federal judge ruled in December that the law was unconstitutional. The court also gave the Legislature until July to approve a measure legalizing it.
At the time, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made clear he would continue to take on the gun lobby and said he would advocate for "sensible gun laws" that would protect the people of Chicago from guns and gangs. Some aldermen vowed to fight the court's ruling, which came as the city was about to record more than 500 homicides — many of them shootings — for the year.
Chicago police say the city has seen 100 fewer homicides and nearly 500 fewer shooting victims over the past 11 months compared to the same period last year. They also say they've seized more than 4,800 illegal firearms so far in 2013 — more than any department in the country.
In May, lawmakers approved compromise legislation that allows anyone with a valid Firearm Owners Identification card and who has completed 16 hours of gun training and passed a background check to obtain a concealed carry permit for $150. It also made a list of places — including schools, libraries and mass transit buses and trains — off limits to guns.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, used his amendatory veto to change the bill, saying it wasn't restrictive enough. He wanted guns banned from any business where alcohol is served and to limit gun owners to carrying one concealed gun and one ammunition clip holding up to 10 rounds, in addition to other changes.
But lawmakers voted to override Quinn's changes and pass the law as originally approved. They gave Illinois State Police six months to set up the permit process and another 90 days to process applications, though gun rights supporters have asked the courts to allow residents to carry weapons immediately. A hearing on that request is scheduled for October.