Chicago businessman hopeful to open city’s first gun shop


AP photo

Irving Park resident Christopher O’Connor plans to open Chicago’s first gun store and shooting range, despite community criticism. 

By Metro Reporter

A Chicago businessman is pushing  forward with plans to open the city’s first gun store and shooting range despite resistance from community members and

an alderman.

The brainchild of Irving Park resident Christopher O’Connor, the shop and range was originally scheduled to be built by the end of the year at 613 N. Union Ave. The project would convert a warehouse in a manufacturing district into a glass-encased, luminous showroom and a target practice studio with the sleek decor of an

Apple Store.

The potential arrival of the Firearms Defense Training  Center has caused disagreements  in the community about whether it should open, but O’Connor said he thought if he could garner support for the shop, it would be approved by Alderman Walter

Burnett Jr. (27th Ward).

However, Burnett said he opposes a gun shop opening

in his ward.

“A shooting range, if the community would like a shooting range, I don’t have a problem with,” Burnett said. “But, a gun store I have a

problem with.”

Burnett said he foresees  the store becoming a hub for illicit gun  sales.

“Say I was a guy looking to sell some illegal guns, what’s the best place to find people to sell illegal guns to?” Burnett said. “Either you go in the neighborhood, in the ghetto, or you go to a gun shop.”

O’Connor said he is surprised by the alderman’s decision, but he is optimistic he will eventually open the store.

“I’m disappointed in [Burnett’s] reaction and based on our conversation,  I thought that he would support whatever the community wanted,” O’Connor said. “I’m going to talk with my zoning council, my attorney and see what my real options are.”

O’Connor plans to meet with his attorney and real estate brokers on Jan. 25 and is considering scheduling another meeting with Burnett. Going forward, he said he will also begin scouting for alternative locations. Gun sales are a huge untapped market in Chicago, he said, adding that the nearest gun stores and shooting ranges are located in the suburbs.

“When I first started this process we gathered a couple [locations], but this was the best fit, but there are other places we can go,” O’Connor said, although he declined to disclose specific locations he is  considering.

Chicago’s gun laws have eased  in recent years. A 2010 landmark Supreme Court ruling, McDonald v. Chicago, overturned the City’s handgun ban and in 2014, Illinois became the last state in the U.S. to pass legislation enabling its citizens to carry concealed handguns. 

Following the Illinois decree, the City Council passed an ordinance permitting gun stores in some zoned commercial and downtown service districts if they meet a number of conditions, including that they remain at least 500 feet from any school or park. Shooting ranges enjoy less freedom than gun stores and are only allowed in zoned manufacturing districts.

Attorney and  longtime West Loop resident Mary Danahy said she is  strongly opposed to people carrying concealed guns and the prospect of a gun store opening in her backyard.

“Particularly in an urban setting, I don’t want to be around people that are carrying,” Danahy said. “I’m sure the founding fathers could not have imagined gun-toting urbanites.”

While Danahy said she is hoping Burnett stays firm on his decision, Alain Milotti, a West Loop resident, who participates in competitive shooting recreationally, said he supports the business proposal.

“I’m hoping they’ll educate the community,” Milotti said. “In my opinion, a large reason of why people have anti-gun views is just the simple fact that they’re not familiar with them and human tendency is to be afraid of what we are not familiar with.”