Housing authority sued over gun ban in subsidized homes

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Public housing administered by the East St. Louis Housing Authority have a “no guns” clause in their lease. (Photo: ESLHA)

Gun rights groups allied with a domestic violence survivor are suing an Illinois housing authority over their “no guns allowed” policies.

The East St. Louis Housing Authority is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed last week by an unnamed woman “hiding from a violent domestic abuser” backed by Second Amendment organizations.

The woman said she fears her abusive ex-husband who was recently released from prison on a murder conviction. She has a valid Illinois firearms card but is barred by her lease at ESLHA’s Auburn Terrace complex from having a gun in her home even though it was used to save her life previously.

“This situation is made even more outrageous considering what has happened to Ms. Doe while living at Auburn Terrace,” said Alan Gottlieb, head of the Second Amendment Foundation, one of the groups backing the woman. “We’ve explained how she was beaten and raped in January 2017, and her children stopped the attack only by threatening to use a gun. On two other occasions, Ms. Doe had to call police due to shootings in nearby residences. When the housing authority threatened to terminate her lease due to the gun in her residence, they insisted that the building is safe, so she doesn’t need a gun.”

The lawsuit, prepared by attorney David Sigale in conjunction with the Illinois State Rifle Association, names the housing authority’s director, Mildred Moffat, in her official capacity as a defendant. The filing notes that the authority’s lease specifically restricts firearms possessed by the renter or guests “anywhere in the unit or elsewhere on the property” and the units are subject to “special inspections” at any time. This, argues Sigale, amounts to a program that denies people their Second Amendment rights simply because they are at a financial disadvantage and need government housing.

“Wealthier persons who can afford to live in private housing are not deprived of this right,” Sigale says.

The unidentified plaintiff is described as a customer service representative for a medical supply distributor, who was forced due to family health issues to seek governmental assistance. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the authority’s gun restrictions on lawful owners “because the lease provisions violate constitutional rights.”

Other states have moved to overturn gun bans in public housing in recent years following legal challenges. In 2014, a ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court struck down existing policies prohibiting guns in common areas of the Wilmington Housing Authority as unconstitutional.

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