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Rahm Emanuel and area mayors want state ban on assault weapons

Village President JessicTucker WinnetkIll. speaks during press conference about gun control City Hall Chicago Ill. Thursday December 20 2012. |

Village President Jessica Tucker, of Winnetka, Ill., speaks during a press conference about gun control at City Hall in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, December 20, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:27AM

Calling the Connecticut school massacre a “tipping point,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday joined forces with suburban mayors in the fight for a state ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and criminal background checks before every single gun sale.

As White House chief-of-staff, Emanuel famously talked about never letting a “good crisis go to waste.”

Adam Lanza’s shooting of 20 children and six heroic adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a horrible crisis that shook every American to his and her emotional core, whether or not they have kids.

But it also presents an opportunity for gun control advocates to reverse a string of losses to the clout-heavy National Rifle Association and stay on offense at a time when a federal appeals court ruling that overturned Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons has put them on defense.

“There are moments in time that sear to the public a debate and it’s a tipping point in galvanizing forces and bringing people together to find common ground,” said Emanuel, likening Newtown to the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan that gave birth to the Brady Bill and to the aftermath of the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King.

Joining Emanuel at Thursday’s City Hall news conference were: Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl; Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams and Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough; Winnetka Village President Jessica Tucker and Westchester Village President Sam Pulia.

For Winnetka residents, what happened in Newtown was like reliving the nightmare of the 1988 shooting by Laurie Dann, Tucker said.

“We still grieve over 20 years later for little Nick Corwin. He was a second-grader at Hubbard Woods Elementary school, 8 years old, died of gunshot wounds when a babysitter went berserk and shot up the school,” Tucker said.

“I stand here today….for little Nick Corwin, no longer with us. Standing up for Newtown, standing up for Portland, standing up for Oak Creek, standing up for Aurora and too many other communities that have seen this sort of gun violence….I’m not sitting down until we find a sensible solution.”

Of the 7,000 guns seized this year by Chicago Police, only 300 are assault weapons. That means an assault weapons ban would have minimal impact here.

But Tisdahl said, “Try holding the mother of a child who’s been killed in your arms and being afraid to let her go because I thought she might shatter if I quit hugging her. Then, you’ll be happy to keep one murder from happening….Even if it was only one it would be well worth it.”

Under questioning at a City Hall news conference, Emanuel acknowledged that gun control is not the only answer. There’s also a need to examine “what we’re teaching teenagers about respect for life” with a culture of violent movies and gory video games that, the mayor said, “numb people to the cost of life.”

President Barack Obama also has talked about “making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.”

Still the mayor has no regrets about his decision to consolidate a dozen mental health clinics into six. Even with the cuts, he claims the city’s remaining clinics are better staffed, serving more patients and providing psychiatric care to 1,000 patients who never had access to that kind of care before.

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