A year ago, in March, 2013, I wrote a gun control article here for the Huffington Post, "The Good Thing We Can Learn From Anti-Abortion States." It stemmed from news stories about red states where abortion was totally legal, yet laws were being enacted to make it difficult to get those legal abortions, to the point of near impossible. With zoning laws, or laws affecting medical licensing or code requirements, abortions might be legal, but you couldn't get them.
"I realized that there's a lesson that can be learned here," I wrote, " -- not about abortions, but another issue that's just as divisive. And using those lessons, it would be possible to start making a dent in a problem that the vast majority of Americans are now saying they want addressed."
What I suggested, somewhat facetiously, was that gun control advocates could try to get similar laws passed. Owning guns was legal, but you could make selling those guns (and bullets) so restrictive that it would effectively block the sales of guns. My suggestions started small, but then went way over the top, which was the facetious part (and some misguided folks chided me for them...) -- but the point was serious.
Little did I know that Chicago, of all places, decided to actually do something similar. They haven't gone as far, but still -- they've gotten the concept right. Some of the new laws are similar to those passed in New York City, where a limited study showed that gun crimes they sold dropped 85%,
This all came about after a city ban on gun stores was ruled unconstitutional, but rather than fight the decision, Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel decided instead to put in restrictions, which have to approved by July 14. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported here --
"Under the proposed ordinance, special-use zoning would keep gun stores out of 99.5 percent of Chicago, limiting them to pockets of the North, West and South sides, city officials said. The stores could not be within 500 feet of a school or park.
"Store owners would have to conduct quarterly audits of their gun sales and allow police to inspect their records. They also would have to get the police to approve a security plan before they could open their doors."
But it goes much farther than that. Some of which, I was shocked to see, I even joked about doing in my article, in the less quipping parts. As the paper writes --
"Chicago’s proposed ordinance would require gun stores to submit a safety plan outlining exterior lighting, surveillance cameras and alarm systems, as well as storage of guns and ammunition.
"Employees would have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and training on identifying potential gun traffickers.
"The stores would have to maintain a log of gun sales in which a firearm was later recovered in a crime. That would help employees identify potential gun traffickers if they tried to buy more guns, according to the city.
"Emanuel is proposing that Chicago gun stores could sell only one handgun a month to a buyer. If the city revoked a store’s business license for violating the ordinance, it could not reopen at the same location for three years, officials said."
This is indeed the "red state block legal abortion" blueprint. Leave gun-selling legal, but make it difficult to sell them. The thing is...much as pro-gun zealots would bristle at the concept, these new ordinances seem to make sense if public safety for a legal, but potentially dangerous product is your concern. You can buy guns -- you just have to be very, very safe about it. As you should be about guns. And pro-gun zealots regularly talk about how people should be safe with guns.
“'There is no question it will be the smartest, toughest regulation on gun stores in the country,' said Janey Rountree, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for public safety. 'It’s designed to prevent gun trafficking and illegal sales in these stores.'”
Alderman Walter Bennett Jr. told CBS newsradio station WBBM, “This is just letting everyone know that we here in the city of Chicago are very serious about gun trafficking going on in the city of Chicago. So we want to make sure if a person is proposing to do some gun trafficking here, we want to limit them as much as possible.”
The Good Thing We Can Learn From Anti-Abortion States. Go figure. It actually seems to work.
My kind of town, indeed.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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