For Release: Wednesday, March 22, 1995
The historic Morton Grove ban on handgun sale and possession — the first of its kind in the nation — may soon be overturned as the result a campaign being waged by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to pass a statewide firearms ‘preemption’ in Illinois that would nullify all local laws stricter than state standards (under the bill only Chicago would be exempt). In addition to the Morton Grove ordinance, the proposed law would affect a wide range of firearm statutes in more than 47 other Illinois communities. Affected local laws would include gun dealer regulations, restrictions on discharging of a weapon, and concealed carry restrictions. The Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill this week. If the measure passes, it will then move on to the Illinois Senate.
In 1981 Morton Grove became the first American community to ban the sale and private possession of handguns. The law led to court challenges by the NRA on both the federal and state level, where it was found to be constitutional. The Morton Grove ordinance and subsequent court cases have stood as concrete proof that American communities have the right to ban handguns and that such laws are constitutional. As a result, preempting Illinois has remained an NRA priority. Following passage of the Morton Grove law, the NRA launched a successful state-by-state preemption effort, with Illinois being one of the handful of states that retained its communities’ rights. Prior to the Morton Grove law, only three states had enacted or confirmed through litigation preemptions. By 1991 this number had reached 41.
Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “While public and press attention has been focused on the NRA’s attempts to repeal last year’s federal assault weapons ban, the NRA has been fighting a guerilla war in America’s states. The NRA talks of freedom but only if you own a gun.”
Dan Kotowski, field director of the Chicago-based Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence adds, “This debate is not just about gun control. It’s about the home rule rights of local communities to enact laws to make their citizens safer. Who knows what’s better for the residents of Illinois’ communities: their own citizens or the National Rifle Association?”
Adds Kotowkski, “The only justification offered for this usurpation of the rights of local communities is that hunters are allegedly harassed by local law enforcement when traveling through localities with stronger gun laws. Yet under 1986’s NRA-backed federal Firearms Owners Protection Act, hunters can transport their firearms anywhere in the country including anywhere in Illinois as long as their guns are unloaded and not readily accessible. Are preemption proponents battling for the right to transport loaded and easily accessible firearms? The NRA knows that this is a non-problem that has already been solved. The real agenda is to take down every local gun control ordinance in Illinois.”