Mayor Emanuel welcomes Obama visit that will spotlight city’s problem
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org February 11, 2013 3:45PM
Confiscated weapons were on display as Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Cook County Stateâs Attorney Anita Alvarez to announce new gun safety measures at the 15th District Police Station, 5701 W. Madison, Monday morning. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:22AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he welcomes President Barack Obama coming to Chicago this week — acknowledging that the visit will spotlight the city’s crime problems but could also lead to a national conversation on urban gun violence.
On Monday, Emanuel proposed boosting the mandatory minimum sentence for felony gun possession from one to three years and imposing “truth in sentencing” to require inmates to serve 85 percent of their gun possession sentences — up from 50 percent.
The proposals, endorsed by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, would be part of a larger gun control package the mayor plans to introduce in the General Assembly.
Emanuel said he’s not afraid the president’s visit will focus too much attention on Chicago’s violence and make the city less attractive to families and businesses.
“The issue of urban gun violence is not limited to Chicago,” the mayor said.
“The worst thing would be to say, ‘Let’s not discuss this,’ ” he added.
“Given that the lion’s share of both the victims and perpetrators are African-American young men, who better to have that discussion than the president of the United States, who repeatedly talked about fathering and the role of fathering?” the mayor said.
Emanuel said a discussion about preventing Chicago’s gun violence should include ways to strengthen gun laws and their enforcement as well as ways to mentor the young inner-city men who are the most likely targets of shootings.
He said the city should embrace such a discussion.
“Rogers Park cannot say that because it happened in Roseland, it doesn’t matter,” Emanuel said.
The mayor’s announcement on gun control measures — made at the Austin Police District on the West Side — comes after the arrests of two suspects Sunday in the murder of 15-year-old South Side student Hadiya Pendleton.
First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral over the weekend and the president will touch on the city’s gun violence in a speech he plans to deliver Friday on a visit to Chicago, his aides said.
The mayor, meanwhile, denied he was politicizing Hadiya’s murder when he called her parents Sunday to let them know two suspects were taken into custody earlier that day. The call was widely reported in the news on Sunday.
Emanuel said he’s been calling her parents regularly, often just to say, “I’m thinking of you and you’re in my prayers.’ ”
“So when we had some information, I informed them,” he said.
If he hadn’t been in regular contact with the family, he agreed Sunday’s call might look politically motivated.
As for the proposal he unveiled Monday, Emanuel said he spoke to the leaders of the Illinois House and Senate and believes the measure will be part of a larger gun-control package he intends to introduce in the General Assembly.
Asked if the state will need to come up with extra money to lock up people held longer in prison for gun-possession crimes, police Supt. Garry McCarthy responded that each murder costs the city an estimated $5 million, which he attributed to a study by a think tank.
There were 506 murder victims in Chicago in 2012, 16 percent more than the previous year.
“There’s not a dollars-and-cents issue here, because if there were, it would be an outright win,” said McCarthy of the mayor’s proposed mandatory minimum sentence on gun possession in Illinois.
New York created a 3 1/2 year mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession in 2007. It’s credited as being one reason why violence — and incarceration levels — have both declined there.
To demonstrate the impact of boosting such sentences, McCarthy pointed to four men murdered in Chicago this year and in 2012.
All the men had been convicted of felony gun possession between late 2011 and late 2012. They would not have been on the street at the time of their killings if they had been sentenced to a three-year mandatory minimum term, the superintendent said.
Three men suspected of 2012 killings also would have been locked up and unable to commit those murders under a three-year mandatory sentence for gun possession, McCarthy added.
Until the mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession is boosted, Alvarez said she will instruct her prosecutors to seek the maximum possible prison term in each case.