Naperville's ban of sale of certain rifles: Opponents warn of lawsuits, elections
Citing bloodshed at a Texas school, a New York supermarket and -- far closer to home -- a Highland Park parade, Naperville officials have voted to ban the sale of certain high-powered rifles.
The ban was approved in the early morning hours of Wednesday and will take effect on Jan. 1. And, as residents and city council members noted, it could have repercussions both legally and politically.
The 8-1 vote, with only Councilman Paul Hinterlong voting "no," came after four hours of public comments from more than 100 people on both sides of the issue. When the speakers finished, council members gave their viewpoints on how they reached a voting decision, which arrived at about 1:20 a.m.
Five council members, including Mayor Steve Chirico, joined Ian Holzhauer, Patrick Kelly and Theresa Sullivan -- the driving forces behind the ordinance -- despite concerns about potential lawsuits and the financial fallout for the two affected city businesses, Range USA and Law Weapons and Supply.
"We've seen basically little or no action of any kind from our state government or from our federal government," Kelly said. "I think we can set an example for other municipalities and for our state, and potentially the federal government."
Hinterlong, echoing statements from numerous speakers, said he preferred drafting a resolution instead of passing what he called an ineffective ordinance that exposes the city to possible lawsuits challenging its legality.
"We agree that this is going to do nothing, but we're going to stick our neck out here for being sued and have the possibility of losing and probably costing a couple million dollars in lawyers' fees when we lose," Hinterlong said. "What is the sense in that?"
While several council members expressed sympathy for the owners and employees of Law Weapons and Range USA, the importance of passing the ordinance took precedence.
"What it is trying to do is make a point that there are certain weapons that have absolutely no value to a peaceful society beyond sport for a few and profit for others," Sullivan said.
In addition to affecting Law Weapons and Range USA, the ordinance bans sales by other local licensed sellers such as pawnshops. Private sales of the weapons are not prohibited, and residents are not blocked from owning them.
The sale of the rifles will be prohibited within the city limits except for sales to federal, state or local law enforcement agencies and officers. The exception also applies to sales to the U.S. military, including the Illinois National Guard.
The exceptions solidified a vote for approval from some council members.
"I believe in the Second Amendment, but that right is not limitless," Councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor said. "Just like the First Amendment is not limitless."
The ordinance takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Violations will incur a $1,000 fine for the first offense and subsequent fines of $2,500.
Several speakers told the council members their votes on the ordinance would be remembered in future elections, something Councilman Paul Leong noted in his comments.
"I want to assure everyone here that we are very aware of that," he said. "We're accountable, always."