Dear President Abu-Taleb and village trustees,
I live in Oak Park and am the former chairman of the Oak Park Citizens Committee for Handgun Control, which led the fight to enact Oak Park's handgun ban in 1983-84 and to successfully defend it in the village referendum on the ban, held in November of 1985.
I also am a former law clerk to the late Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as Judge William J. Bauer, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, so I have at least a nodding acquaintance with federal constitutional law.
I write you to state my views on the Village of Oak Park's response to Governor Quinn's amendatory veto of the concealed-carry bill, which will soon go back to the General Assembly for further action.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in the McDonald case, which overturned our handgun ban by a 5-4 vote — the narrowest of possible margins — I sharply criticized the Court's opinion as inconsistent with the plain language of the Second Amendment and the historic power of state and local governments to police the possession and use of lethal weapons.
I believe the McDonald decision, as well as Heller, its predecessor, which overturned the District of Columbia's handgun ban, are bad law and will — one day — be overturned. However, for now, we have no choice but to respect these Supreme Court decisions as stating the law of the land.
Since then, I have not chosen to speak publicly about issues pertaining to alternative regulation of handguns because, until the courts have given us clearer guidance on the subject of gun control, I believe it would be imprudent to undertake any sort of aggressive, new regulation of handguns or other lethal weapons at the local level.
As you know, in the wake of Heller and McDonald, the Seventh Circuit has ruled that states may not impose a blanket prohibition on the public carrying of guns and has given the state of Illinois until July 8 to come up with a less restrictive approach to the subject of concealed-carry. The result is the concealed-carry bill which the Governor has recently vetoed.
It is my understanding that the legislature has until July 9 to respond to the Governor's veto. It seems likely that the General Assembly will enact the bill into law over the Governor's veto. This requires a three-fifths vote in each house of the legislature. But the bill passed by a larger margin in each house.
According to the bill, local governments have an extremely short period of time — 10 days — in which to respond to the concealed-carry bill if it becomes law through a legislative override of the Governor's veto. It is my understanding that any local ban on assault weapons will be ineffective unless enacted within 10 days of the bill's becoming law. Happily, Oak Park has already banned the possession of assault weapons, though village counsel probably should be consulted to make sure that our ordinance is consistent with the proposed bill.
Although any local licensing or registration of handguns would be pre-empted by the proposed state law, it is my understanding that we have no such provision affected by it, and that Oak Park's ban on the sale of firearms to private citizens would not be overturned by the bill.
However, you may want to seek further counsel from the village attorney on this subject, as well as on the question of whether such limitations are constitutional in the wake of the Heller and McDonald opinions. In my personal opinion, at least, bans on the private sale of firearms and possession of assault weapons within the village appear to be clearly consistent with the language of those decisions.
In sum, you are in the happy position of having to do nothing in response to the concealed-carry bill, assuming it becomes law over the Governor's veto. Your predecessors in office have already dealt with the assault weapon and sales issues and enacted ordinances which they believed properly protect the public health and safety of the community.
I believe our ordinance, as amended in the wake of the Supreme Court's decisions in Heller and McDonald, is constitutional and do not ask you to go any further in regulating handguns or other firearms at this time.