Emanuel calls for ‘vote of conscience’ on assault weapons ban
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 17, 2012 1:08PM
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy, at news conference Monday, November 26, 2012. l John H. White ~Sun-Times
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Updated: January 19, 2013 6:15AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Monday for a “vote of conscience” on an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre but Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said it would be like “putting a Band-Aid” on a cancer without a companion ban on high-capacity magazines.
And Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday renewed his call to ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
After watching politicians do nothing to control the proliferation of guns and ammunition after other mass shootings, McCarthy said he’s not so sure it’ll happen now — even after 20 first-graders and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I’ve been watching these [incidents] happen time and time again: Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora . . . You name it. And it’s not just about schools. It’s about rampages on trains [and] at shopping malls. The fact is, nobody’s ever done anything about it,” McCarthy said. “It’s issues like this that, all of the sudden explode and the gun debate starts. But, at the end of the day, nobody does anything about it. After Tucson, everybody was talking about extended magazines. Where did it end up? Absolutely nowhere. We have to awaken an American consciousness to this. I don’t know how some people sleep at night thinking they can defend this.”
Emanuel made the same argument after joining McCarthy at a Navy Pier graduation ceremony for 41 police recruits and 40 new sergeants.
The mayor said his efforts to put more police officers on the street, lengthen the school day and bolster after-school programs will fall short unless Congress re-enacts the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and Illinois legislators do the same.
“You will be as strong as the rest of our strategy and, as somebody who stood by President Clinton’s side to make sure that we had a ban on assault weapons, I do not want to see more weapons on the street, more guns on the street that make your job all that [much] more difficult,” Emanuel told the graduates. “It’s time that we as a city, we as a state and we as a country make sure that you get backed up. We can’t just stand behind you and say we support all the men and women in the law enforcement community and then not have the laws on the books that help you do your job every day.”
As the graduates and their families broke into applause, Emanuel pounded the podium and said, “It’s time in the city we have an assault weapons ban. It’s time we as a state have an assault weapons ban. It’s time we as a country have an assault weapons ban, and I would hope that the leadership in Congress would now have a vote of conscience. It is time to have that vote.”
Last Friday, Adam Lanza, 20, used an assault weapon to massacre 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
That morning, Emanuel was huddling with gun-control advocates to plot their next move after a federal appeals court tossed out Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons and gave the General Assembly six months to make it legal.
On Monday, McCarthy urged Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal the concealed carry ruling, arguing that “just because 49 states did it doesn’t make it right.”
He added, “What we’re doing isn’t working. Look at countries like England where they have very strict gun laws. Look at countries like Canada. They don’t have the same problems we have with gun violence. This is not brain surgery. It’s really simple. Too many guns means more violence.”
Over the years, gun control has been a tough sell in Springfield because of the geographic divide in Illinois and the perennial fight between Chicago politicians concerned about gang violence and Downstate lawmakers whose constituents love to hunt and collect guns and own guns to protect themselves.
Emanuel steered clear of the assault weapons ban while plotting the Democratic takeover of Congress and later as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama.
But the Connecticut shooting massacre has changed the political equation, as Obama’s poignant speech at a Sunday memorial for the Connecticut school victims showed.
It gives Emanuel the opportunity to make the case for strong controls on concealed carry, for even greater restrictions in Chicago and for a new assault weapons ban at the state and national level.
“All of us are residents of [Newtown], Connecticut. There’s not a parent. There’s not a grandparent. There’s not a human being, regardless of whether they have a child, that is not a citizen of [Newtown], Connecticut,” the mayor said.
McCarthy said an assault weapons bans at the state and federal level would “make sense” and “help us on the street” but that doesn’t go far enough.
“If you have the assault weapons [ban], but don’t ban the high-capacity magazines, we’re only putting a Band-Aid on a problem. We’re not fixing it,” he said.
McCarthy also renewed his call for a requirement that gun owners report the loss, theft or transfer of legally purchased firearms that end up being used illegally on Chicago streets.
He noted that the gun used to seriously injured Chicago Police Officer Del Pearson was legally purchased in 1972, but police had no idea where that gun has been all of these years.
“It’s been proposed a number of times and it’s been defeated every single time. People talk about it. People hide behind the Second Amendment and, as a result, people are afraid to make those changes,” McCarthy said.
“It would be nice if we see some action on it this time. And it would at least be some sort of way to try and make sense of a tragedy like this moving forward.”
Quinn echoed McCarthy as he called for state lawmakers to ban assault weapons when they return to Springfield for a lame-duck legislative session, beginning on Jan. 2 and extending through Jan. 9. “The message of last Friday is it’s time for all of us in Illinois to begin to save lives by banning assault weapons [and] banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that are used to kill people,” he said.
“It’s time to protect the people, especially the children, the innocent children who I know, if they had a voice today, those children from Connecticut would tell us please act on their behalf,” the governor told reporters.
Quinn lost a battle a few weeks ago to ban assault weapons when lawmakers defeated his rewrite of legislation permitting gun owners to buy ammunition online. Quinn used his amendatory veto on the bill and inserted assault-weapon language in it. The Senate turned back that effort 49-4, while the House did so on a 78-28 roll call.
And in one other important gun-related pronouncement, Quinn urged lawmakers facing a 180-day federal appeals court deadline to allow concealed carry in Illinois to ban people from carrying weapons in schools, university campuses, day-care centers and shopping malls.
“The lessons of the past week indicate that with shopping malls, schools, university buildings — we know firsthand from our terrible experience that occurred on Valentines’ day of 2008 where five wonderful students from Northern Illinois University were shot in their classroom — we have to have some places people cannot carry loaded weapons that are concealed on their person,” the governor said.
Last week, a three-member federal appeals court overturned two lower-court rulings that upheld Illinois’ longstanding prohibition on carrying concealed weapons and ordered the state Legislature to draw up a law permitting that. Illinois is the only state that doesn’t allow concealed carry.
Contributing: Dave McKinney