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Ezell v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 29, 2014

RHONDA EZELL, et al., Plaintiffs,

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For Rhonda Ezell, Joseph I. Brown, William Hespen, Action Target, Inc., Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., Illinois State Rifle Association, Plaintiffs: David G. Sigale, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Firm of David G. Sigale, P.C., Glen Ellyn, IL; Alan Gura, PRO HAC VICE, Gura & Possessky, PLLC, Alexandria, VA.

For City Of Chicago, Defendant: Michael A. Forti, LEAD ATTORNEY, Andrew W Worseck, Mardell Nereim, City of Chicago, Department of Law, Chicago, IL; Rebecca Alfert Hirsch, City of chicago, Chicago, IL; William Macy Aguiar, City of Chicago, Department of Law, Chicago, IL.

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Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge.

Chicago residents Rhonda Ezell, Joseph Brown, and William Hespen, along with organizations, Action Target, Inc., Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., and the Illinois State Rifle Association brought this action against the City of Chicago, alleging that various regulations within the Municipal Code of Chicago (" MCC" ) regarding firing range facilities are unconstitutional. The Plaintiffs claim that the challenged regulations burden the installation of a range and therefore violate their Second Amendment right to acquire and maintain proficiency in the use of firearms. See Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 704 (7th Cir. 2011) (" The right to possess firearms for protection implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use; the core right wouldn't mean much without the training and practice that make it effective." ). The Plaintiffs specifically challenge eleven remaining regulations[1] generally falling into

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three categories: (1) zoning restrictions; (2) construction requirements; and (3) business operations. The Plaintiffs maintain that each challenged regulation is unconstitutional by itself, but alternatively argue that the cumulative effect of the regulations creates a de facto ban on firing ranges within the City. Additionally, the Plaintiffs allege that the regulations unconstitutionally infringe upon their First Amendment right to free speech. Both parties have moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 230) is granted in part and denied in part and the City's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 222) is granted in part and denied in part. The City's Motion to Dismiss Claims as Moot (Dkt. 269) is itself dismissed as moot pursuant to the parties' joint statement regarding remaining claims (Dkt. 278).


A. Parties

Rhonda Ezell, Joseph Brown, and William Hespen are Chicago residents who want access to a firing range within the city. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 1-3; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 1, 2, 4). Action Target designs, builds, and furnishes firing ranges throughout the United States. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 4). The Second Amendment Foundation and the Illinois Rifle Association are nonprofit organizations that advocate for Second Amendment rights and the members of the organizations are firearms enthusiasts. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 5-6). The Illinois Rifle Association is interested in bringing a mobile firing range to Chicago; however, it is concerned with the current state of regulations and has yet to determine what a range in Chicago would cost. ( Id.; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 5).

After the Seventh Circuit concluded that the Plaintiffs had a strong likelihood of success on their claim that a blanket ban on firing ranges within the City was unconstitutional, see Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011), the City enacted a comprehensive regulatory scheme encompassing licensing provisions, construction requirements, environmental regulations, and zoning restrictions for firing ranges on July 6, 2011. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 9). The regulations were amended on September 8, 2011, January 17, 2013, September 11, 2013, and June 25, 2014. ( Id.; see also Dkt. 278). While short of a complete ban on ranges, the Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of a number of the City's regulations.

B. Zoning Restrictions

Under MCC § 17-5-0207, firing ranges may only be located in a manufacturing district as a special use. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 12, 16). The special use process requires a public hearing before the City's Zoning Board of Appeals to determine whether the use should be allowed. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 16; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 75). Section 17-9-0120 further provides that shooting ranges may not be located within 100 feet of another shooting range; 500 feet of any residential zoning district; or 500 feet of any pre-existing school, day-care facility, place of worship, premises licensed for the retail sale of liquor, children's activities facility, library, museum, or hospital. ( Id.). Of the 32,000 acres zoned for business, commercial, and manufacturing uses,

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3,386 acres of property meet the requirements of Sections 17-5-207 and 17-9-0120. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 14).

Patti Scudiero, the City's Zoning Administrator, testified that the City imposes zoning restrictions because the transportation and use of guns and ammunition could have an impact on the health, safety, and welfare of individuals surrounding a gun range. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 16). As a result, the City considers firing ranges to be " high impact," and restricting range locales to manufacturing districts offers " a distance away from the residential communities in most areas of the city." ( Id.). The parties do not dispute that lead-contaminated air released outside a firing range and left unmanaged can contaminate waterways and pose hazards to people if the range is located in a populated area. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 20; Dkt. 227, Ex. 24, Nat. Inst. for Occ. Health and Safety (" NIOSH" ) Alert Apr. 2009 at 15). Accordingly, the parties agree that ranges are compatible with industrial use, but the Plaintiffs maintain that ranges are also compatible with commercial use. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 19; Pl. Resp. ¶ 19). Plaintiffs' experts Lorin Kramer and Jack Giordano testified that they are aware of other jurisdictions where ranges are considered a commercial use and generally placed in commercial zones where there is retail traffic. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 33, 57).

Scudiero further testified that because the movement of guns and ammunition creates a potential for criminal activity, the restrictions are intended to keep any criminal activity away from residential areas or areas where large assemblies of people gather. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 17). Sergeant Kevin Johnson of the Chicago Police Department testified that the presence of weapons and ammunition inherently endangers public safety. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 18). Specifically, Johnson testified that firing ranges provide criminals with an opportunity to steal firearms and the zoning requirements reduce the chance that any crime associated with a range would impact other areas. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 18). However, both Scudiero and Johnson testified that they had no data or empirical evidence that such a criminal impact would occur or that placing a range a certain distance away from any other use would affect any secondary effects. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 76; Dkt. 227, Ex. 21, Johnson Dep. at 169). Johnson further testified that although the governmental purpose for disallowing firing ranges within 500 feet of a residential zone is public safety and that the safety issue is heightened in residential areas, any risk is due to the range's existence and is the same regardless of where the range is located. (Pl. 56.1 St. 72; Johnson Dep. at 146-48). Similarly, Kramer is unaware of any location where crime increased as a result of the addition of a gun range. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 42). Richard Pearson, the Executive Director of the Illinois Rifle Association, testified that he is unaware of any other range in the country that has to comply with similar zoning requirements. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 6).

From July 6, 2011 to October 5, 2012, the Zoning Administration fielded approximately three to four inquiries regarding opening a firing range at specific addresses. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 77). The Zoning Administration denied all the requests because the addresses were either not in manufacturing districts or were located within 500 feet of a restricted area. ( Id.).

C. Construction Requirements

Range designers, including Kramer, consult the National Rifle Association (" NRA" ) Source Book and NIOSH guidelines for information on construction. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 29; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ ¶ 27, 45). Firing ranges carry with them the risk for contact with lead, fumes, dust, and ricocheting

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bullets. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 23). Among other things, these safety concerns make firing range construction significantly more expensive than typical construction. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 24). Indoor ranges can be particularly costly. ( Id.). Although ranges are inherently expensive, one of Action Target's managers, Christopher Hart, guessed that opening a range in Chicago would cost two to three times more than elsewhere, partially due to a number of the City's regulations. (Hart Dep. at 164).

1. Ballistic-Proof Walls and Doors

Section 13-96-1160 of the MCC requires a firing range to be constructed with materials sufficient to stop all bullets or projectiles from penetrating beyond the enclosure, including the walls, floor, ceiling, and doors. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 27). The only exception to the requirement is the rear wall, which need only be constructed of materials capable of stopping the ricochet or fragment of a bullet from penetrating the wall. ( Id.). According to Robert Fahlstrom, the Manager of Regulatory Review in the City's Department of Buildings, the provision's purpose is to reduce the risk of injury to individuals congregating near a firing range. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 28).

The NRA Source Book states that indoor ranges must be " built of impenetrable walls, floor, and ceiling." (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 30; Dkt. 227, Ex. 23, NRA Source Book at I-3-22). Hart admitted that all ranges should have ballistic walls and it is not uncommon for the rear wall to have " some kind of ballistic controls," although many do not. ( Id.). The Plaintiffs estimate the cost of an armored door to be $7,000 to $10,000 and making the rear wall ballistic around $200 per linear foot of length in an existing building. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 32; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 35).

2. Separate Ventilation Systems

Section 13-96-1210(d) provides that " [w]here a shooting range facility contains multiple shooting ranges, each shooting range shall be provided with a separate ventilation and exhaust system." (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 33). The stated purpose behind the provision is to minimize the potential lead exposure at firing ranges as much as possible. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 34). The NIOSH maintains that " [v]entilation is the most important engineering control for protection against primary lead exposure in indoor firing ranges." Additionally, the New Jersey Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that each range have its own ventilation system. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 35). The Plaintiffs estimate the costs of an additional ventilation system to be between $65,000 and $75,000. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 37).

3. Interlocked Ventilation Systems

Section 13-96-1210(e) requires a range's supply and exhaust systems to be electrically interlocked so both systems turn on at the same time. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 38). Failure to operate both systems simultaneously increases the risk of toxic fumes within the range, and the City's purpose behind the provision is to eliminate this possibility. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 39). Interlocking the two systems is standard practice in the industry. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 40). Both the NIOSH and the New Jersey Act mandate the interlocking of supply and exhaust fan systems. ( Id.).

4. Sound Limit

Section 13-96-1200(b)(2) limits the maximum noise emanating from the range facility to 55 decibels when measured 100 feet or further from the range, or 70 decibels when measured 10 feet or further from the source. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 47). The noise limitations for any business in the City, including ranges, apply only between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. ( Id.; Def. Resp. Mem. at 9). If a shooting range is only open between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., the noise ordinance does not apply. (Pl. St. Add'l

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Facts ¶ 69). Additionally, noise restrictions on businesses, including ranges, in manufacturing districts only apply if the noise spills into areas contiguous to the district. (Dkt. 228, Ex. 38, Schnoes Dep. at 27-28). Kevin Schnoes, a former Assistant Commissioner of the City's Department of Public Health, testified that the provision is meant to prevent Chicago residents from being disturbed by noise that is outside their control. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 48). The NRA Source Book states that existing laws commonly specify sound levels for particular land uses. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 48). Jack Giordano, a shooting range safety and health specialist, testified that it is unlikely that any sound emanating from a properly-designed range would exceed the limit proposed in the regulation. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 49; Dkt. 226, Ex. 16, Giordano Dep. at 204).

5. Promulgation of Rules by Commissioner

Section 11-4-260(b) provides that " [t]he commissioner [of the Department of Health] is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations for the cleaning of, sound and air quality control at, and discharge of particulate matter and waste from shooting ranges and shooting range facilities." (Def. 56.1 St. ΒΆ 59). The Plaintiffs concede that gun ranges are highly regulated because of the potentially dangerous activity conducted, and Giordano agreed that someone should have the ...

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