Chicago became the first city to prohibit smartphone cases shaped like guns after it unanimously approved the ban at a meeting on Wed. July 29.
Under the terms of the ordinance, no one is allowed to buy, sell, conceal, trade or give away any gun-shaped cellphone cases, cameras and lighters. Anybody caught with any of these items would be fined between $100 and $750.The city already bans “replica guns,” such as guns that fire paint pellets. The new ordinance extends the scope of that existing ban and increases the maximum fine from $500 to $750.
The ban was originally introduced in the finance committee, where it was passed unanimously on July 27. Ald. Ed Burke (14th), the finance committee chair, was the chief sponsor. A total of 18 aldermen signed on, including aldermen Jason Ervin (24th), Walter Burnett (27th), Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th).
Burke was the only alderman to speak before the vote was cast. He said the cases looked too much like real guns, which is problematic for two reasons. First, he said it might put young people in danger.
“Imagine them walking around with this sticking out of their back pocket or waistband, [which] police officers might see,” said Burke. “We’ve seen enough [fatal] incidents with youngsters who had replica gins and pellet guns.”
Burke, who was himself a police officer before he was first elected alderman, said that cops often have to make split-second decisions and that phone cases looked enough like guns to raise alarm.
He was also concerned that people might use the phone cases to try to rob or otherwise threaten others — scenarios which the police have already witnessed with toy guns.
“CPD has seized 600 replica guns used to commit violence,” said Burke, adding that he hopes the ban would raise awareness and potentially save lives.
“Hopefully, it’s going to make parents aware that the product is out there and they ought to make sure their kids won’t have it,” said Burke.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) used the vote as an opportunity to spotlight a hearing she planned to hold about a shipment of guns that was stolen from the Norfolk Southern freight rail yard in Englewood.
“Given that we’re talking about guns and violence and the city, I think it’s important that Norfolk Southern [addresses] their lax security in their rail yards,” she said.