Charlotte, NC –-(Ammoland.com)- Since 2010, when Chicago’s aldermen responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago by rushing to impose the harshest possible restrictions on residents’ Second Amendment rights, the city’s new laws have been under legal attack.
On June 19, Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois became the latest judge to undermine the city’s anti-gun ordinance, in the NRA-supported case of Gowder v. City of Chicago.
In 1995, Shawn Gowder, a Vietnam veteran living in a high crime area, was convicted as a first-time offender for simple possession of a firearm in violation of Illinois law. His misdemeanor record did not block him from possessing a gun under federal law, or from getting a state Firearm Owner’s Identification card, so he could still legally possess a gun in Illinois.
Nonetheless, when Mr. Gowder applied for a Chicago Firearm Permit (a requirement newly imposed after the McDonald decision), the Chicago police denied his application. Mr. Gowder sued the city. Mr. Gowder (represented by attorney Stephen Kolodziej) argued that Chicago’s law that bans non-violent misdemeanants from possessing guns in their homes for self-defense is unconstitutionally vague and violates the Second Amendment.
The court agreed on both counts. First, Judge Der-Yeghiayan found the city’s ordinance unconstitutionally vague because it “does not provide a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.” That’s because the ordinance denies permits to persons convicted of “unlawful use of a weapon,” but while Mr. Gowder was convicted under a state law that refers to “unlawful use of a weapon,” that law also applies (as in Mr. Gowder’s case) to people who simply possess firearms under certain circumstances.
The court also agreed with Mr. Gowder’s Second Amendment challenge. Unlike other cases involving felons or people convicted of violent domestic misdemeanors, there was no evidence that Mr. Gowder is “a risky person or embodies the type of violent citizen” not entitled to exercise the right to arms. And as the court pointed out, non-violent misdemeanants were not historically prohibited from possessing guns, either in 1791 when the Second Amendment was passed or in 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Second Amendment to the states. In a thorough and scholarly analysis, the court made clear that it would reach this same conclusion under any standard of review that might be applied; but notably, the court expressly rejected intermediate scrutiny as the proper level of review for infringements on the core Second Amendment right, holding that a higher standard should apply.
Other provisions of Chicago’s ordinance remain under attack in the NRA-supported case of Benson v. City of Chicago, which is now pending before a different judge in the same court. But the Gowder ruling is historic because it marks the first finding that a criminal conviction for mere possession of a firearm is insufficient to deprive a person of his Second Amendment rights in the future.
Mr. Gowder also deserves credit personally for his principled stand in rejecting a settlement offer that would have granted him a permit, while leaving the law intact against other people with similar minor records.
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org