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Chicago Mayor Emanuel Urges Action on Common Sense Federal Gun Legislation

By Kevin McCarty
January 28, 2013

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed attendees of the Conference of Mayors 81st Winter Meeting, speaking as mayor of the nation’s third largest city but drawing extensively upon his vast experience as a senior White House official pressing for common sense gun legislation during the 1990s.

“When I was with President Clinton in passing the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban, a lot of the focus at that time was on the NRA. They were as fierce in their opposition then as they are today, and, in my view, against common sense gun legislation,” Emanuel told his colleagues during the January 19 plenary session. “Both of these legislations were successful because they were focused on criminal access to guns.”

Drawing upon lessons from earlier legislative struggles, he used his address to advocate for common sense reforms, urge local action by mayors and focus attention on the opponents of legislation. “Who is behind, beyond the membership of the NRA, are the gun manufacturers themselves.” He explained that these companies are “making sure that any efforts that restrict access are prevented.”

Comprehensive National Background Check System Needed

“I happen to think that while I support wholeheartedly all of the President’s proposals, and will fight as an individual mayor to them through and hope we, as an organization, also continue to do that, but, as a baseline, it is essential to deal with the 40 percent of guns that are purchased that do not get a criminal background check. It is essential to do that,” he said.

Regardless of city size, Emanuel said, “Creating a baseline at the national level is essential so that all guns regardless of where they are purchased a criminal background check is done.”

Citing recent efforts in his city to direct pension funds to divest of holdings in companies that manufacture assault weapons, Emanuel noted efforts by other mayors. Whether enacting new ordinances or directing city pension funds to divest, he said such actions will “help the President and the Congress finally create in my view common sense gun control legislation that will compliment all of what our police, our after school investments and our tougher penalties on gangs will be do. Without this, our system will be much weaker.”

Reminding mayors they need to fully engage this debate, he said, “Collectively, we are stronger when we all act together. They need to hear a clear and unambiguous voice. You’ll do [gun manufacturers] what you need to do but don’t get in the way of a comprehensive background check system to keep criminal access to guns away.”

Magazine Limitations Needed

He explained that limitations on magazines have been part of federal law for some time, with a single standard for duck hunters in every state in the U.S. “Duck hunting goes on,” he said, with a federal 3-cartridge limitation. “But if we are going to have a federal law on a limitation for the sportsman as it relates to duck hunting, we surely should have an assault magazine limitation as well because the lethality of that weapon changes.”

Emanuel, who served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, reflected on the success of earlier common sense gun reforms, when coupled with commitments to the COPS Program, community policies and other policies, in helping mayors reduce crime in their cities over the last two decades. “From those battles, I will tell you both from the crime bill and the assault weapons ban and the Brady bill, The United States Conference of Mayors was in the leadership. The Conference of Mayors stood with President Clinton, shoulder to shoulder, across party lines.”

“All of us know we are at an inflection point that has tipped—Aurora, Colorado, Virginia, Oregon and Newtown, Connecticut,” he said in concluding his remarks. “We are all residents of Newtown, Connecticut.”