A Tuesday meeting of the Oak Park Board of Health attracted the attention of gun rights advocates across the state, who fear the village may approve laws they say unfairly restrict gun owners' rights and could be duplicated elsewhere in the state.
The meeting marked the first time the village has addressed how it will respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, handed down nearly two years ago, that eviscerated its long-standing handgun ban, Oak Park Patch reports.
Some residents spoke in favor of new regulations of local gun ownership, while others feared that such laws would do little to make the village safer and could also lead to expensive legal battles, Patch reports.
The Illinois State Rifle Association had issued an "urgent alert" encouraging its supporters to attend the meeting. As the Wednesday Journal reports, the group claimed that Oak Park-based "gun-grabbers" are attempting to "launch a whole new attack on your right to keep and bear arms." Further, the alert reads, "many gun-rights advocates believe that the Oak Park regulations are a blueprint for state-wide laws that the gun control movement hopes to pass in 2013."
Village Manager Tom Barwin called the alert "inaccurate" and described the meeting's goal as elevating the discussion of gun ownership in the community beyond a shouting match.
"We're trying to get it off of this pitched, emotional, Second Amendment, right-to-bear-arms fight. We're beyond that," Barwin told the Wednesday Journal. "We're talking about public safety, reasonable educational information, reasonable restrictions that I think every responsible gun owner is for."
As the Chicago Tribune reports, some residents expressed concern about firearm sales taking place near schools, parks, playgrounds and daycare centers. Windy City Firearms, a recently opened shop on Roosevelt Road, is located within two blocks of an elementary school as well as a separate preschool.
But Mike Weisman, ISRA vice president, shot down many residents concerns about crime coming hand in hand with looser gun laws in the community. Specifically, he noted "there's been no crime wave since taken over since the handgun ban was lifted. There's actually been a decrease in crime," according to the Tribune.
Though the village no longer bans handguns, it still continues to outlaw assault weapons, WBEZ reports. Meanwhile, Illinois remains the only state in the union without any form of concealed carry law on the books and Gov. Pat Quinn has continually pledged that he would veto any such legislation that is sent to his desk.
In 2011, the number of gun owners in Illinois jumped by more than 78,500 over the previous year, the Northwest Herald reports.