The city's 2010 blanket ban on gun sales and transfers within city limits "goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms," U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang said.
"The stark reality facing the city each year is thousands of shooting victims and hundreds of murders committed with a gun," he said.
"But on the other side of this case is another feature of government: Certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside government's reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment," the judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said in a 35-page decision, which can be found at tinyurl.com/UPI-Gun-Ruling.
Chang -- appointed by President Obama, who supports stronger gun-safety laws -- said regulation and licensing, or even a law that's less restrictive than a blanket ban, could ease most of the city's gun-violence concerns and still let law-abiding citizens exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Chang said he would temporarily delay his ruling to let Chicago decide if it will appeal.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a defendant in the case, "strongly disagrees" with the judge's decision and has instructed city attorneys "to consider all options to better regulate the sale of firearms within the city's borders," city Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said in a statement.
"Every year Chicago Police recover more illegal guns than officers in any city in the country, a factor of lax federal laws as well as lax laws in Illinois and surrounding states related to straw purchasing and the transfer of guns," he said.
Straw purchasers use their clean criminal backgrounds to buy guns for criminals.
"We need stronger gun-safety laws, not increased access to firearms within the city," Drew said.
City attorneys had argued the gun sale ban made it harder for criminals to get their hands on weapons.
The Illinois Association of Firearm Retailers, which was among the plaintiffs that filed the 2010 lawsuit, was quick to predict neighborhood gun stores would open before the end of the year, the Chicago Sun-Times said.
Illinois National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde told the Chicago Tribune none of the city's arguments were upheld by the judge.
"The city is going to have to allow retail gun shops to operate and they are going to have to allow individuals to transfer firearms in normal transactions," he said. "So the question now is: How much more money does Rahm [Emanuel] want to spend fighting it?"
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