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07-24-2008, 17:31
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Updated 7/23: Wilmette shoots down '89 handgun ban

July 23, 2008Recommend (1)

By Ken Goze kgoze@pioneerlocal.com
Wilmette village trustees voted Tuesday night to strike the village’s 1989 handgun ban from the books in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., ban.

Village officials suspended enforcement of the ordinance shortly after the June 26 ruling and said it would probably not withstand legal challenges based on the court’s reasoning in the ruling, which said outright gun bans are unconstitutional.

The proposed ordinance to repeal the local ban was passed unanimously late Tuesday night.

“The Supreme Court has made their decision. It calls into question our ordinance,” said Village President Chris Canning. “We thought the best thing to do was to suspend enforcement immediately and then look at our legal options, and at least personally, I think the strongest option that would give a clean slate to the whole situation would be to repeal the ordinance.”

Trustees said they would explore other possible regulations, but felt the current ordinance would not withstand a legal challenge.

Several residents urged the board to retain the ordinance as they study alternatives.

“To me, it’s unseemly haste,” Mark Singer said.

The ordinance, which levied fines of up to $750 and allowed police to seek the destruction of seized weapons, has been enforced rarely over the years, in part because police usually found weapons in circumstances that involved more serious state laws.

The last time it was invoked, in 2004, involved a homeowner who shot and wounded an intruder in his east side home.

The citation brought a backlash from gun-rights groups across the state and a state law that ultimately led to the ticket’s dismissal, but since that time, trustees say they have heard little sentiment for or against the ban.

In the absence of issues such as the 2004 incident, trustees on both sides of the question have preferred to leave it alone. When it did come up, they often found themselves in a packed board room with a heated debate between out-of-town advocates.

“In the last election two people talked to me about our handgun ban, one person being for it and one person being against it,” Village Trustee Karen Spillers said in the weeks after the court ruling. “At least from my experience it has not been an issue that is top of mind for people in Wilmette.

“More people have talked to me about getting more diverse dining options than about the handgun ban.”