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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg November 7, 2017

Donald Trump wrongly repeats that Chicago has strongest gun laws

President Donald Trump might be in Asia, but violence on the homefront followed him to South Korea.

In a joint press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a reporter asked Trump if he would consider extreme vetting for people trying to buy a gun in the wake of the mass shooting at a Texas church.

Trump said a longer waiting period would have made no difference and then drew on a familiar talking point.

"You look at the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation, is Chicago, and Chicago is a disaster," Trump said.

Trump used this line during the presidential campaign, with particular emphasis on Chicago’s high murder rate. Our partners at PolitiFact Illinois said he had a point about the murders, but his description of the Windy City having the toughest gun laws was way off the mark. Since then, the administration has taken the line even further into inaccurate territory.

Here’s why.

There are two ways to measure the toughness of gun laws. You can look at the rules controlling gun ownership and the penalties for misuse of a weapon.

From 1982 to 2010, Chicago prohibited people from keeping handguns in their homes. When Washington, D.C., saw a similar ban overturned, Chicago did have the toughest gun law in the country. That lasted about two years. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Chicago ordinance in 2010. The plaintiffs in the case of McDonald vs. City of Chicago argued that the ban left them vulnerable to criminals, and the court agreed. The court said that the Second and 14th Amendments protected the right to bear arms and that neither Chicago nor Illinois could interfere with that.

At one time, the state of Illinois prevented gun owners from carrying a concealed weapon. That ended in 2013 when the state became the last in the country to allow the practice.

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To get a gun in Chicago, you must take a firearms training class and get a Chicago firearms permit. The course costs between $100 and $150 and the permit costs $100. You would also need a state firearms owner identification card, which can take as many as 50 days for processing.

It’s harder and requires more time to do the same in New York. It takes about three to six months to get a permit and costs over $400. And unlike Chicago, New York runs its own concealed carry permit process, as does Los Angeles.

Chicago also isn't particularly tough when it comes to enforcement.

A 2014 Chicago Sun Times analysis found that Chicago judges tended to hand down the minimum sentence of one year for illegal gun possession while the maximum is three years. Felons with a weapon got four-year sentences on average while they could have received 10.

On the state level, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a pro-gun control group, gives many states higher rankings for restricting gun ownership and use. A total of seven states, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Hawaii, have rules that go beyond what Illinois has.

The group said Illinois could bring up its score if it allowed local governments to pass gun laws, required guns be stored safely at home and gave local law enforcement more leeway to deny conceal carry permits.

The one area where Chicago is trying to reduce access to weapons is by not allowing gun stores or firing ranges to open within the city limits. So far, courts have ruled against Chicago.

We reached out to the White House and did not hear back.

Our ruling

Trump said Chicago has the strongest gun laws in the nation. The statement is years out of date. After a Supreme Court ruling, Chicago residents can own handguns and carry them unseen on the streets. A national gun control group puts seven states above Illinois in regulating gun ownership.

Trump needs to refresh this talking point. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

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Pants on Fire
Chicago is "the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation."
In a press conference in South Korea.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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