CHICAGO | Ignoring a potential legal challenge, the Cook County Board on Wednesday approved an ordinance requiring people with children to store their firearms more securely.
The measure, which passed 11-3, with three other county commissioners absent, requires people with children living in their homes to have their firearms in a separate place from its ammunition, and for trigger locks to be on the firearms at all times.
Children are defined in the ordinance as people younger than 21.
Repeat offenders could be fined as much as $2,000.
Commissioner Jesus Garcia, D-Chicago, said he has heard of too many instances of young children finding their parents’ firearms and hurting themselves accidentally.
The measure, which came the same day the Chicago City Council voted 46-0 to approve a ban on so-called assault weapons and tougher fines for shootings near schools, came under immediate criticism.
The County Board also approved its own assault weapons ban, calling for fines of up to $10,000 for repeat offenders, and up to six months in jail. That ban applies to all Cook County municipalities that do not have stricter ordinances on their books.
“We must do what we can to stem the tide of gun violence and keep weapons with high levels of destructive capability out of circulation,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.
National Rifle Association legislative liaison Todd Vandermyde said he is convinced the County Board went too far with its restrictions since state laws do not go that far. He said his group will successfully sue Cook County just as it has sued Chicago city government in recent years to challenge firearms restrictions.
“Three times, the (Illinois) Supreme Court has remanded this issue back; I don’t think (the ordinances) comply with the courts,” Vandermyde said. “Chicago has paid our group more than $1.5 million in legal fees. Does the county want to do the same?”
Some county commissioners — even those who wound up voting for the measure — expressed some concern.
“I’m concerned we’re going to follow in the footsteps of the city, which has paid more than $1 million in legal fees,” Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, said.
Commissioner Patricia Joan Murphy, D-Crestwood, questioned how the new rules could be enforced.
“It seems like all of these incidents are going to be found out about after the fact,” she said.
Marjorie Fujara, a pediatrician at Cook County's Stroger Hospital who also is head of the Moms Demand Action group, said she thinks tougher regulations are needed to keep kids away from firearms. She said children as young as 3 are physically capable of pulling a trigger.
“These kinds of laws are inconvenient, but so are seat belt laws, and no one argues against them,” she said.
Commissioner Stanley Moore, D-Chicago, whose district includes 10th Ward neighborhoods such as the East Side and Hegewisch, supported the resolution, although he said he’d like to see further study of the issue.
“We need to look at this more to make sure the ordinance is good,” he said.