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Posted: Wednesday, 23 July 2008 9:40AM

Wilmette Handgun Ban Dead, 7-0 Vote Repeals Law

WILMETTE, Ill. (WBBM)  -- Wilmette's handgun ban is dead.
The village board voted Tuesday night 7-0 to repeal the 19-year-old ban, following 45 minutes of discussion and public comment.   
The ordinance has not been enforced since last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming individual gun ownership rights in the case of the District of Columbia vs. Heller.  
Nonetheless, Village President Christopher Canning said village attorney Timothy Frenzer feared legal action by opponents of the ban if it were to remain on the books.
“The Village of Wilmette ordinance, as it is drafted and on the books today, would not withstand constitutional scrutiny, and therefore should be repealed,” Canning said.  “That has to go.”       
Despite advance publicity, only five people turned out to speak. Three disputed Canning and Frenzer's position and urged retention of the ban.  One favored repeal and a League of Women Voters (LWV) representative called for quick consideration of a new ordinance.
“If the pending cases establish that Heller does not apply to the states, we'd look pretty foolish to have repealed our ordinance unnecessarily,” said Wilmette resident Mark Singer.
Parent Amy Rogers argued that repeal should have been delayed until a successor ordinance was on the books.
“I think that everyone agrees that to repeal these gun regulations without the appropriate protections in place for our children is not a good decision,” Rogers said.  
But admitted gun owner Joel Siegel said the National and Illinois State Rifle Associations were poised to file immediate suit if the repeal failed, and said any fight to save it would amount to  “beating a dead horse.”  
He instead urged that Wilmette utilize NRA programs to train any child who wants gun training.
“Young people, when properly instructed, can be responsible and will not abuse a firearm,” he said.
Siegel, a retired teacher, said he came directly from a youth training session at a Kankakee firing range.   
A gun control group, Legal Community Against Violence, promises to prepare a draft ordinance in about a month.        Trustees Lali Watt and Mari Terman said, when casting their votes, that they wanted to see a full discussion of potential replacement measures as soon as possible.  Canning said that Wilmette will discuss it, but would not  promise introduction of the measure, much less passage.
Canning, Levin and Trustee Michael Basil (BAZ'-il) made it clear Wilmette would rather watch the court battles from the sidelines.
“We could discuss it at any length that we want, but the law right now is in a state of gross uncertainty,” he said.  “While it will be interesting to look to possible legislation, I would suggest that anything we do until there are cases, Supreme Court cases that set some sort of ground rules for gun regulation, we're just asking for the same fiscal irresponsibility in that we would be defending our legislation at the taxpayers' expense,” he said.
     He said getting “some sort of direction” would take “a couple of years at least.”
The ban generated controversy when it passed in 1989, in the wake of the shootings at Winnetka's Hubbard Woods Elementary School.  It generated even more headlines after restaurateur Hale DeMar shot an intruder in his lakefront home in December 2003.  The Cook County State's Attorney's office refused to prosecute DeMar, but the village assessed DeMar a $750 fine.
Siegel said the village's actions in the DeMar case made it “the laughing stock of the nation.”
League of Women Voters representative Georgia Gephardt urged passage of replacement ordinances providing for licensing of guns, a waiting period before purchase, mandatory identification checks and annual renewal requirements, calling handguns “a health and safety threat.”

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