Are the city's gun registration laws discriminatory?


Taking a look at Mick Dumke’s excellent investigation – The Misfire – in the Chicago Reader, one section caught my eye. Dumke chronicles the city’s new gun registration law and tells us who’s registering guns with the Chicago Police Department.

It’s not where you might think – high crime neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. No, in fact, it’s the firmly middle class edges of the city, like Norwood Park, Beverly and Clearing that have seen a rise in legit gun ownership. 

One of Dumke’s sources makes an interesting point about how this new law actually discriminates against citizens who live in poorer, high crime neighborhoods. Take a look: 

More at

John Lott, an economist who argues that gun control laws like Chicago’s actually lead to higher crime, says the cost of meeting the gun application’s training and registration requirements essentially discriminates against low-income black communities. In Chicago, the training and permit fees cost about $250 on top of the price of the gun.

“Those who are most likely to be victims of crime benefit the most from owning guns, and unfortunately, that is one very well defined group in our country, poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas such as Chicago,” Lott wrote in an e-mail. “But these white, middle-class areas can much more easily afford the fees to register their guns and to go through the training requirements.”

Roderick Sawyer, alderman of the 6th Ward, is skeptical of that theory. “It’s like buying a car,” he says. “If you want one you’ll find a way to do it.”

We know that most of the guns in Chicago aren’t on the police department’s registration list. But there’s plenty of law-abiding citizens in the city who may want to own guns to defend themselves, like much-applauded 68-year-old Margaret Matthews who shot a 12 year-old boy on her front lawn last fall after he repeatedly terrorized her house.

The process to get registered does seem lengthy – acquiring a state firearm-owner identification card, undergoing three background checks, a training class, shooting practice, and a fee of $100 plus $15 per gun, and then registering with the police department.

But Sawyer argues that if you want a gun, the city’s registration fees won’t stop you. I don’t know about you, but that didn’t make much sense to me. If I wanted a gun and I couldn’t afford the fees to register with the police department, I’d just get a gun illegally. There are lots of car owners out there who bought a cheap run-down beater and drive around without a license or insurance.

So, what do you think? Do these extensive regulations and fees help us make sure we know what guns are on our streets? Or do they keep citizens who might benefit the most from owning a gun from being able to do so on the level?

poll by


Leave a comment
  • "If you want one you'll find a way to do it."

    Exactly. And the way to do it is to purchase a gun from the black market. Poor people have been doing this for a long time. I'm surprised that someone who claims to represent citizens of Chicago doesn't know this.

Leave a comment