As Gangs Flourish, Displaying Historical Firearms Illegal in Chicago Museums

Outside of Chicago's museums, gangs are killing each other at an alarming rate. But due to Chicago's strict gun ban policies, inside those museums curators are not allowed to display historical firearms. In some cases, the museums are not even allowed to store their collections inside the city limits.

The matter has become an issue after the family of the late Major General William Levine, one of America's highest-ranking Jewish generals, donated his belongings to Chicago's Pritzker Military Library this year. The collection included a firearm that the general picked up in Germany during WWII.

However, the library is not allowed to display the captured German pistol. In fact, the library cannot even store it in the collection inside city limits.

"We realized when we received that gift that we couldn't keep that gun in the city of Chicago," said Ken Clarke, Pritzker Military Library CEO.

To correct this oversight in the law, city alderman Ed Burke has proposed a museum amendment to the city's strict gun ban law.

"Museums are caught in a dilemma that if they have in their collections artifacts that can be defined as firearms, even though there's historical significance to the memento, they can't be registered in the city and can't be displayed," Burke said.

"One would think this is an anomaly--that it was an unintended consequence of a well-intentioned law that ought to be corrected," Burke told members of the media.

Clarke argued Chicagoans are being shorted by this policy.

"It's about preserving the stories of citizen soldiers from World War II, World War I... who have served our country," he said.

Due to the city's firearms bans, museums have to reject offers of donations from families wishing to donate antique and historically significant artifacts.

Chicago's largest museum, The Field Museum, also has a significant firearms collection but has refused to display the artifacts thanks to the laws.

If the city council passes Alderman Burke's proposal, Chicago museums will be allowed to display firearms classified as "curios and relics." Already most guns from before 1898 are classified as "non-guns" by the federal government, but the "curious and relic" designation pertains to guns 50 years and older that have been classified as historically significant artifacts by a municipal, state, or federal museum.

Photo credit: NATO


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