Emanuel, Preckwinkle push for tougher local gun laws

January 14, 2013

Two of Cook County’s top Democrats are pushing for tougher local gun laws this week, after a ban on military-style assault weapons died in the Illinois General Assembly during the final days of the lame duck session.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are set to introduce ordinances that would require people to report guns that are lost or stolen.

“We do that for auto theft – [if a] car’s gone. We should do that for guns,” Emanuel said Monday at an event in Washington, D.C., adding that many guns used in crimes had earlier been lost or stolen.

Emanuel’s proposal, set to be introduced at Thursday’s City Council meeting, would require anyone with a gun in the city to report if it is “lost, stolen, destroyed, sold or transferred” to another person, according to the mayor’s office. Right now, only people who register guns with the city are held to such reporting requirements.

The plan would also dramatically increase penalties for people who don’t tell police if a gun is lost or stolen. Violators could face up to $5,000 fines and up to six months in jail. The mayor’s proposal would impose similar fines and jail time on people caught with assault weapons, high-capacity clips or metal-piercing bullets, or anyone who has a gun without a city permit.

Meanwhile, Preckwinkle’s plan, set to be introduced Wednesday, would give gun owners 48 hours to report a gun missing, with violators subject to a $1,000 fine. The first-of-its kind reporting requirement for Cook County would help crack down on the illegal gun market.

“Straw purchasers and, basically, gun-runners, can claim when weapons are traced back to them, that they were lost or stolen – which of course they never reported – but not that they’re engaged in illicit activity,” Preckwinkle said.

But both proposals will only hurt law-abiding gun owners, said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, a gun rights group. Pearson said the hefty penalties for people who don’t report lost or stolen firearms would only discourage those who might otherwise report a missing gun.

He said it doesn’t make sense for the city to require gun owners who don’t have a city permit to speak up if their firearm goes missing, while at the same time toughening penalties on that same group.

“[If] they wind up being a defendant in the case, you’re gonna find that people are gonna do this,” Pearson said. “Just make a law that they have to do it, and don’t put ‘em in jail for it.”

Last spring, Emanuel was pushing for a state law that would require handgun owners to register their weapons with the state and tell authorities if a gun changes hands. But it fizzled in the General Assembly.