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Editorial: City needs gun laws

Chicago Police Cmdr. Garry McCarthy  |  Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Chicago Police Cmdr. Garry McCarthy | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 4, 2013 6:41AM

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy likens police efforts to get illegal guns off the street to drinking out of a fire hose. By that he means so many illegal weapons flow into the city that police are simply overwhelmed.

Without some system of tracking all firearm sales, nothing can stop the torrent of weapons gushing into cities. The result is carnage that makes daily headlines. Homicides in Chicago were down in February, but on the first day of March, a 20-year-old man was shot in the face in Hegewisch.

This isn’t something that Chicago — or any city — can fix by itself. Chicago Police confiscate a huge number of guns. But more just keep coming, and the bullets keep flying.

The legal gap that needs to be plugged is a rule exempting private gun dealers from any federal review. Private dealers and gun shows make some 40 percent of all gun sales. Without records, it’s not possible to know if a seller conducted a background check. That’s a hole anyone can drive a truckload of illegal guns through.

The dismaying news this week is that a tentative deal in Washington on requiring background checks for buyers in private gun sales seems to be falling apart. Republicans see it as a step toward a national registry that a conspiratorial government could use to confiscate every single gun in the country.

Illinois legislators last week also were bitterly debating new gun legislation. One legislator rightly cut through the diversionary parsing of words about what constitutes an “assault weapon” by saying we’re talking about “weapons of war.” But a Chicago Police representative said banning assault weapons won’t make much of a dent in Chicago’s high murder rate — it’s really mostly handguns.

Common sense says that without some kind of registry, anybody can buy weapons legally at a gun store, where that person’s identity is registered and a background check done, and then turn around and sell them to any gang-banger on the street anonymously.

The NRA’s fears of gun confiscation are overblown. The shooting on our streets is real. We’ll take a possible loss of privacy over the nightmare of unlimited and uncontrolled handguns.

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