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We can do more to keep kids safe

Protesters rally outside state Capitol as lawmakers push final versions right-to-work legislatiLansing Mich. Tuesday Dec. 11 2012. The GOP majority

Protesters rally outside the state Capitol as lawmakers push final versions of right-to-work legislation in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The GOP majority has used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to speed the legislation through the House and Senate, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:16AM

While holding closely the family and friends of the victims of the Newtown massacre on Sunday, as well as holding back his own tears, President Barack Obama asked, “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?”

On behalf of every person who is charged with protecting our nation’s communities, he answered correctly: No, we are not doing enough. And we will not be doing enough until we pass comprehensive gun control legislation.

As a nation, we have expressed heartache and outrage after the tragedies in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Sandy Hook. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon us to remain committed to enacting this legislation.

Here in Chicago, it is important to remember the progress that our police officers have made this year, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and I had a chance to do on Monday when we swore in 41 recruits and 40 new sergeants at Navy Pier.

As a result of the hard work of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, crime in the city is down 8.45 percent, and it is nearly triple what the next major city was able to achieve this year.

The success has been comprehensive and consistent, with burglary down 15 percent, motor vehicle theft down 13 percent, criminal sexual assault down 8 percent and robbery down 4 percent.

I attribute that success to the three key strategies we have pursued under Emanuel’s leadership: moving more police officers onto the street, instilling greater accountability in the department and partnering with community organizations to gain a better understanding of trends on the ground.

However, as has been all too clear, shootings and homicides are not down, especially in those parts of the city most affected by gang violence.

Under our gang violence reduction strategy, we have aggressively gone after that gun problem, under what powers we currently have, in order to get illegal guns off the street and away from our children. Through numerous gang take-downs and drug market seizures, we have taken a record number of guns off the streets this year, totaling more than 7,000 firearms as we near the end of 2012. These are guns bought legally, transferred illegally, and end up in criminals’ hands. In just the first half of this year, we recovered nine times as many guns as New York City, and three times as many as Los Angeles.

The people of Chicago can be proud of the progress our officers have made this year. But when I look into the eyes of a mother who has lost her child to gun violence, or comfort the spouse of a police officer who has been wounded, I know that Emanuel is right to call upon legislators in Chicago, in Springfield and in Washington to enact common sense gun-control legislation.

That includes not just a ban on assault weapons, but also on high-capacity magazines. It requires not only going after the “straw purchasers,” but also requiring the registration of the loss, transfer or theft of a firearm so that guns don’t go unaccounted for and fall into the wrong hands. The debate has become too polarized. We are simply asking for reasonable gun laws.

Emanuel has fought for legislation requiring titling and registration of handguns; he has spoken out in favor of a ban on carrying concealed weapons; and he has supported restrictions on past offenders’ ability to buy handguns.

All of these measures have been stalled or voted down. Now is the time to renew those efforts, and follow the mayor’s lead; not only to protect our children, but also to empower our police officers so they can do their jobs.

Garry McCarthy is superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

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