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When Cities Try to Limit Guns, State Laws Bar the Way



In Chicago, where street violence and gun deaths have been a significant problem, efforts to limit guns have been stymied by the courts and the state of Illinois. The city used to set strict limits, maintaining a gun registry from 1968 to 2013 and refusing to register any handguns after 1982, effectively banning civilians from keeping them in the city.

But in 2010, the Supreme Court held that state and local gun regulations, like federal law, were subject to the Second Amendment. Illinois responded with legislation that undid Chicago’s ordinance, leaving city officials furious and frustrated.

“The City of Chicago has tried many times on its own to institute legislation to try to restrict gun ownership in the city, and it’s gone up to the Supreme Court, and we’ve lost,” Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, said in an interview. “So our ability is really tied to the willingness of the federal government to step up and do its job. And to date, that hasn’t happened. I do feel very frustrated, as a mayor, not to be able to unilaterally do more.”

Even when cities are able to adopt their own restrictive gun measures, the effects end at the city limits; weapons can still cross into cities easily from surrounding areas and nearby states with laxer rules. Ms. Lightfoot said Indiana — not far from Chicago — has been a constant source of guns that end up on Chicago’s streets.

[Read about a proposal in San Jose, Calif., to require gun owners, like car owners, to carry liability insurance.]

In Philadelphia on Thursday, Mr. Kenney said he had received supportive calls and text messages from other mayors as the city was grappling with the standoff on Wednesday, which kept a neighborhood on high alert for hours through a long night.

“The criminal yesterday was better armed than most of the police on the scene,” Mr. Kenney said in an interview. “That’s insane.”

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