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Gun fee idea nets lukewarm response from DuPage board

Updated: February 10, 2013 6:11AM

A gun-safety proposal pitched by a recently unseated DuPage County Board member drew mixed reactions from current officials this week. Legal issues that could affect its viability remain to be sorted out.

Winfield resident Dirk Enger asked that his former colleagues investigate the possibility of implementing a $10 filing fee for weapons ownership and creating an online map that would display the addresses of permit owners and the type of weapons kept at the residence. Visitors to the county website now can find information about such things as area food pantries and bike paths, Enger reasoned, and they should have access to details about nearby weapons as well.

He emphasized that he doesn’t oppose all gun ownership, although he does support a ban on the sale of military-style assault rifles.

“We all know that everyone falls back on the Second Amendment, and as a veteran, I defended the Second Amendment,” said Enger, a Marine vet who served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

A system already in place in Westchester County, New York, has survived legal challenges, he said, on the basis of freedom of information laws. Maps available online display dots showing the locations of permits granted in Westchester and adjacent Rockland County, which lie directly north of New York City.

“The reason I think (current law) is detrimental right now is I don’t know who has guns in my neighborhood,” Enger said.

He said that as a Democratic committeeman, he is provided with complete listings of neighborhood addresses and the names of people residing at each. His plan would pose a lesser threat to privacy, he said, not specifying gun owners’ names.

According to board Vice Chairman John Curran, the matter can’t be addressed at the DuPage level.

“To take any action with that, we would have to be a home rule county,” Curran said.

The state constitution grants home rule status to any county that has an elected chief executive officer — although Will County voters opted 25 years ago to adopt a county executive form of government without home rule. DuPage operates on the chairman-led board model; Cook County is the only one in the state with home rule.

Other concerns could stand in the way of Enger’s suggestion gaining significant traction. Sean Noonan sees both sides of the argument.

An officer with the Bloomingdale Police Department, the newly elected District 2 board member understands the unease that has swelled in the month since a gunman opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school, killing 28 people including himself when his rampage was done.

While he agrees with those working to ban assault weapons such as that used in the Connecticut shootings, along with the high-capacity ammunition clips that go with them, Noonan said not everyone adheres to regulations about registering guns and paying fees.

“(Enger’s idea) makes sense, but the people who are using those things are the bad guys,” he said.

And although his department recently defused a situation in which a suspect aimed an assault rifle into a local bar, Noonan sees the hazard of unintended consequences from the public airing of privately owned firearms. An online database could, he said, serve to let prospective gun thieves know where they will find pistols and rifles to steal.

Unforeseen developments aside, the legality of a fee and public posting are unknown at this point. Anthony Hayman, a DuPage County assistant state’s attorney who counsels the board, said he didn’t know whether home rule would prove a factor in the county’s ability to implement new gun rules.

“If it’s presented as a proposal, and the board asks us, we’ll look into it,” he said.

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