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Mayor Rahm Emanuel explains his position on gun control legislation

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Calls For Stricter Gun Control

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Calls For Stricter Gun Control

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Updated: January 3, 2013 2:43PM

During my two decades in national politics, there has been a commonly held belief that sensible gun policies are the third rail of politics. Many of our elected leaders simply hide behind this empty mantra to avoid an honest discussion about an issue that ends thousands of innocent lives each year.

The reality is quite different.

In 1993, I joined President Clinton to fight for and pass the last meaningful set of federal gun control laws. We pushed through a strong assault weapons ban because these weapons were built for the battlefield, not for America’s streets. We also passed the Brady Bill because anyone should be able to pass a criminal background check before purchasing a weapon. These laws respected the Second Amendment but made sense to all Americans on both sides of the political spectrum.

In the shadow of the horrific events in Newtown, we must return to this debate with a similar focus on finding meaningful solutions that speak to Americans across the political divide.

Let’s start by renewing the ban on assault weapons and strengthening it by adding a ban on high capacity magazines. Every cop — and every sportsman — agrees that no one needs ammunition that can tear through a police officer’s bulletproof vest, or a high-capacity magazine clip that can spray bullets across a classroom of children in a matter of seconds.

We cannot stop there. While assault weapons are powerful, so too are handguns that fall into the hands of criminals. That is why criminal background checks must be extended to all gun purchases. We surely can balance the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners while protecting the rights of our children to go to school without the threat of violence.

Finally, universal background checks should be coupled with a new law making it a federal offense to purchase a gun with the sole purpose of handing it off to a criminal. This simple act, known as “straw purchasing,” is how nearly every gun winds up in the hand of criminals. Just like we have done on our anti-gang legislation here in Illinois, these new powers would finally give prosecutors a tool to disrupt these exchanges and hold straw purchasers accountable.

Throughout my career I’ve lived by the principle that we should use every crisis to mobilize the public and demand change. This crisis is real — and every day it is tearing apart families and neighborhoods throughout America. These three common-sense reforms are a first step toward ensuring a safer future for our country — a future worthy of the memory of those lost to senseless gun violence everyday.

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