As Oak Park continues to explore how it wants to regulate handguns in the village, if at all, one expert had a few suggestions last week.
Ever since the Supreme Court struck down Oak Park's longtime handgun ban in 2010, the Oak Park Board of Health has been exploring ways to govern gun use going forward. They held a well-attended public forum in January, and on Feb. 28, a handgun-control expert made a couple of suggestions.
Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, suggested four solutions during a health board meeting last week. Those included requiring gun dealers to get a local license, starting a registry for handgun owners, implementing measures to safely store guns in homes, and mandating that gun owners report their firearms lost or stolen with 72 hours.
But some, such as lifelong National Rifle Association member and Oak Parker Dirk Hoerr, think those suggestions are an unnecessary nuisance to gun owners. Oak Park is still battling the NRA in court over paying its attorney fees, and Hoerr said the village should be careful not to invite another legal battle. Instead, education should be the focus, he said.
"My concern is that there's a bill coming due for losing that lawsuit, and I don't think that they need to be challenging what the Supreme Court of the United States has already deemed a constitutional right, inviting more lawsuits," he said by phone this week. "In these tough economic times, it's just an area of exposure that's unnecessary."
Walsh disagreed, saying that some of the measures have already been implemented in other communities and would have no problem standing up in court.
"Obviously there are concerns among folks in Oak Park about not knowing the amount the village has to pay from the previous suit, but these have all withstood court scrutiny and other challenges," Walsh said in a phone interview.
Members of the board of health now plan to delve deeper into Walsh's suggestions by looking for data to back them up, according to Margaret Provost-Fyfe, director of the Oak Park Health Department. A couple of health board members will do some research before reporting back to the full board sometime this summer.
They eventually hope to make a recommendation to the Oak Park village board.
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