The Village of Winnetka is set to fortify its firearm regulations, just not as much as significantly as many had hoped last fall.
The Village Council OK’d on March 7 a first read of Village Code modifications regarding firearms. The changes are highlighted by an increase in fines for gun-related violations, such as illegal discharge of a firearm moving from between $150 and $1,000 to $300 and $2,000.
If the measure is formally approved at a future council meeting, fines for violating the town’s safe-storage and gun-sales ordinances would go from $500-$1,000 to $1,000-$2,000.
Despite the fine increases, village officials said in December it has never administered the fines anyway.
The other amendments, according to village counsel Peter Friedman, also are “not fundamentally changing the village’s ordinances or scope of regulations on firearms, but are cleaning up some language and making sure we are on all fours with the law.”
Those other changes include a clarification on the Village’s firearm-surrender program to make clear that when a gun is surrendered to Winnetka law enforcement it cannot impact any investigation related to that weapon.
With the suggested modifications, Friedman was fulfilling a request from the Winnetka Village Council after an Aug. 10, 2022 study session to open a conversation on potential enhancements to the village’s gun safety in the wake of the mass shooting July 4 five miles to the north in Highland Park.
The town-hall style meeting featured 50 visitors and 19 speakers who urged the trustees to take action.
During a followup December study session, Friedman explained Winnetka has the flexibility to ban assault weapons by amending its code related to a local safe-storage law passed in 2013; however, council members wanted to table that discussion as the state’s assault-weapons ban was working its way through legislature. The bill passed on Jan. 10 and since, as expected, has been the subject of appeals and lawsuits.
Also at the December meeting the council agreed to create a committee to increase and improve public education regarding gun storage and safety.
Prior to March 7’s vote, Village President Chris Rintz said the council’s hands are tried in many respects.
“I think we had all the best intentions when we set out on this examination (into gun regulations) last fall,” he said. “With the state stepping up and preempting just about anything we were thinking about doing, we’re in a situation now where it’s wait and see,” he said. “… Safe storage is something we continue to emphasize and communication throughout the year, and Chief (Brian) O’Connell will continue on with (the gun lock program). … This is what we can do at this point in time.”
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