How I bought my gun in Chicago
Jake Malooley navigates the complex process of getting a handgun in Chicago.
Taped to the locked door of the Northwest Side building where I’ll complete the four hours of classroom instruction necessary to get a Chicago Firearms Permit are flyers for karate classes and a Zumba dance program. I recheck my notes: Fidelity Investigative Training, 4224 West Belmont Avenue, 9am class. Eventually, Rodriguez shows up toting a big black duffle bag containing, most notably, a startlingly large assault rifle that he later shows off to me for no apparent educational reason.
The bulk of Fidelity’s business is administering 20-hour security-guard seminars. But while many suburban gun ranges offer CFP classes, Fidelity’s website grabbed me: The home page features a photo of a smiling woman with a holstered gun embracing her two young pigtailed daughters.
Rodriguez tells me he’s personally graduated 189 Chicagoans hoping to become gun owners. (Since July 12, when the Chicago gun ordinance went into effect, 2,554 people have been granted CFPs and 6,669 handguns were registered.) “I had a couple, both attorneys, come in,” he recalls. “The woman said, ‘Oh, Joe, the sight of a firearm just gets me so nervous. I start to perspire.’ By the end of the day, I had her shooting a .357 revolver. She was loving it.”
Today, I’m Rodriguez’s only pupil. He asks to see my Firearm Owners Identification, the plastic card issued by the Illinois State Police to all gun owners. The process of attaining it felt like the adult version of sending away for a mood ring advertised on the back of a Trix cereal box: Fill out a one-page form of basic biographical info, tape on a head shot and a $10 check, and mail it to Springfield. The FOID form was also the first of several times throughout the gun-getting process that I had to respond to inquiries such as “Are you addicted to narcotics?” and “Are you mentally retarded?”—what I’ve come to call “the Taxi Driver questions.”
“So, Jake,” Rodriguez says, strolling into the classroom. He unzips the black duffel, takes out a pistol and slides it into a holster on his waist. “What’s your experience with guns?”