Officials in Naperville voted to ban the commercial sale of assault rifles this week, but similar action is unlikely soon in Evanston.

The Naperville ordinance, passed early Wednesday morning after several hours of heated debate, will prohibit sale of assault rifles at the two gun shops in the west-suburban city.

Evanston has so far managed to exclude all gun shops from town with a city ordinance that limits firearm dealers to operating only at licensed firearm ranges, with strict licensing requirements for such ranges and with zoning restrictions that limit firearm ranges to industrial zones, impose distance requirements from residential zones, schools and parks and require special use approval by the City Council of any such business.

The highlighted areas shown on this map are among the places a firearm range could theoretically be located in Evanston

The current rules were adopted in 2015 and establish just five areas where a range hypothetically could be located. Four are in industrial areas along the former Mayfair rail line in west Evanston, the fifth is the CTA rail yard at Howard Street.

At the time, City Attorney Grant Farrar said all those areas were filled with existing businesses or other approved uses, so no gun ranges could be established — unless properties went vacant.

The 2015 rules sought to bring the city code into compliance with a Supreme Court ruling broadening gun-owner rights and with state statutes preempting local control over many aspects of gun ownership.

Based on those decisions, Farrar said, completely excluding firearm ranges from all zoning districts in the city would not be legally defensible.

Mayor Biss, in an email exchange with Evanston Now this week, called the state preemption of local control “infuriating,” and said it was passed over his strong opposition when he was in the legislature.

Biss said that because the city’s zoning rules have kept all commercial gun sales out of the city so far, he’s not in a rush to adopt a ban like Naperville’s on commercial sale of assault rifles.

But he says the city is “researching what other options might be at our disposal, and I hope to have some progress before too long.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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