Chicago mayor, police chief rally around tougher gun laws

Chicago police chief makes push for gun regulations ahead of Illinois Senate vote

January 3, 2013

(WBEZ/Natalie Moore)
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy talks gun regulation at St. Sabina Church.

Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy says he gets asked the same question over and over about crime: What’s different about Chicago?

McCarthy, who’s worked in New York City and Newark, N.J., gives the same answer: Guns.

“Chicago Police Department takes more guns off the street every single year consistently, year after year, than any department in the country,” McCarthy said Thursday at St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side.

He said in 2012 police confiscated more than 7,400 guns, including 300 assault weapons. That’s nine times as many guns as New York City and three times as many in Los Angeles.

McCarthy said five things can be done to stop gun violence: restrict assault weapons; restrict high-capacity magazines; report the loss, theft or transfer of a firearm; close the gun-show loophole to have good background checks and have mandatory minimums to deter people from carrying illegal firearms.

“People are going to say that this is gun control and they’re going to take our guns,” McCarthy said. “We’re not looking for that. We’re looking for reasonability in the law.”

Families who’ve lost children to gun violence also gathered in St. Sabina’s basement. Some of them held up pictures.

“The NRA [National Rifle Association] unfortunately in my mind has sought the answer the violence the same way as shooters have — more guns,” said Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down the ban against carrying concealed weapons. While Chicago’s murder tally is hardly at the apex it once was, the city clocked in more than 500 murders last year. The violence that havocs the South and and West Sides may not receive the same renewed boost for gun regulation as other national tragedies, but advocates see a moment.

“Whether we are in Aurora, Colorado, Tucson, Arizona, Connecticut or Chicago, we cannot say we are serious about ending violence if we lack the commitment and courage to deal with guns. We have talked for too long,” Pfleger said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called for residents to pressure Illinois lawmakers to restrict high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

“You do not need an AK-47 or an Uzi for the streets of Chicago, Joliet, Aurora, Rockford, Decatur or Springfield and everything in between,” Emanuel said. “And you don’t need a high-caliber magazine.”

A Senate public health committee passed restrictions earlier this week.

But Senate President John Cullerton says more time is needed to work on the issue before there’s a vote.