Mayor Rahm Emanuel today called for an assault weapons ban at the state and national levels and said it was time for a "vote of conscience" in Congress following the deadly assault on schoolchildren in Connecticut.
Speaking at a Chicago Police Department graduation and promotion ceremony this morning, the mayor did not address the political difficulty of the task. Congress allowed an assault-weapon ban to expire in 2004 and state efforts at gun control legislation have regularly failed in Springfield.
But he noted he worked in the Clinton White House when Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban.
"As somebody who stood by President Clinton's side to make sure we had a ban on assault weapons, I do not want to see more weapons on the street, more guns on the street. They make your job all that more difficult," Emanuel said.
"It's time that we as a city have an assault weapons ban, it's time that we as a state have an assault weapons ban, it's time that we as a country have an assault weapons ban," Emanuel said. "And I would hope the leadership in Congress now will have a vote of conscience. It is time to have that vote."
After the ceremony, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy backed the mayor's call for an assault weapons ban, saying large ammunition clips should be banned at the same time.
"If you ban the assault weapons and don't ban the high-capacity magazines, you’re only putting a Band-Aid on top of it," McCarthy said. "You're not fixing it."
McCarthy also said state Attorney General Lisa Madigan should appeal a federal appellate court ruling that struck down the state's ban on carrying handguns in public.
"The answer to firearms is not more firearms," McCarthy said. "Whether it's conceal-carry, whether it's extended magazines, whether it's assault weapons, it's all part of the same bigger picture."
"She should appeal it, absolutely," he added."“Just because 49 states did it doesn't make it right. Does anybody think it's right, the amount of gun violence that exists in this country? What we're doing isn't working."
Earlier this year, McCarthy said he backed a state law that would require people to report when their guns were lost, stolen or transferred. Now, he added, might be the time for action on gun controls.
"People hide behind the 2nd Amendment, and as a result, people are afraid to make those changes," McCarthy said. "So we talk about it all the time. It would be nice if we see some action this time, and it would probably at least be some sort of way to try to make sense of a tragedy moving forward."
On Sunday, home-state President Barack Obama signaled he was open to a gun-control debate in his remarks to grieving parents and residents in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and eight adults were killed in Friday’s attack by a man who police said was armed with a rifle and two handguns. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois also called for a discussion on gun control.
The tragedy is expected to influence the coming gun-control debate at the state Capitol. Last week, a federal appeals court gave the state until June to come up with a new measure permitting the public possession of guns, as it threw out a half-century-old law that banned the practice.
Any issue involving guns in Illinois has been problematic -- one of the few topics symbolizing the state's urban-rural geographic divide. Top city politicians have pressed for strict gun control measures, facing push-back from the rural culture that holds people should have greater access to weapons.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling already had come against a backdrop of heightened anxiety about gun violence in Chicago, ranging from concerns about crime on tony Michigan Avenue to the city surpassing last year's total of 435 homicides by the end of October.
Madigan is mulling whether to appeal the decision and try to preserve Illinois' status as the last state in the nation to have a comprehensive prohibition on possessing a loaded firearm outside the home.
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