Chicago City Council passes assault weapons ban, Safe Passage updates

July 17, 2013 3:49:00 PM PDT
In reaction to the proposed statewide legislation that would allow the concealed carrying of guns among other changes to weapons regulations, Chicago's city council unanimously passed an ordinance Wednesday that prohibits the import, sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the city of Chicago.

Under the recent statewide legislation, municipalities in Illinois have 10 days to pass new or updated assault weapons legislation, and this ordinance was passed within that window.

"Weapons that are designed for the battlefield have no place on the streets of Chicago," Mayor Emanuel said. "By strengthening our ordinance, we will have a clear, comprehensive and enforceable law that continues to prevent dangerous weapons from threatening the safety of our residents. Chicago will continue to lead the way in enacting the toughest gun control measures possible while still respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."

This ordinance would ban a list of specifically named weapons and their equivalents; any semiautomatic rifle or handgun that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine and has at least one military feature; any shotgun that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine, has at least one military feature, or has a fixed capacity of more than five rounds; and any weapon with a fixed magazine of more than 15 rounds. Military features include telescoping stocks, pistol grips, grenade launchers, barrel shrouds and other features.

Penalties will remain the same as the current law, and any person who violates the law would be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 and incarcerated not less than 90 days nor more than 180 days.

Emanuel called a rare special session Wednesday to deal with guns, the same day Cook County commissioners voted to strengthen the county assault weapons ban with tougher penalties.

Chicago already prohibits the sale and possession of the weapons and of high-capacity magazines. City council members approved measures Wednesday that outline more than 150 specific weapons that are prohibited.

Only a small percentage of the guns seized by the Chicago Police Department are assault weapons. The National Rifle Association calls the ban nothing but "feel good legislation, that won't do any good."

"I remember when I worked for President Clinton and we passed a first assault weapons ban. It doesn't matter, those are not a problem, everything you can do must be done to bring safety to our streets," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"Yes, this is not going to wave a magic wand," Emanuel said. "But we had a responsibility and stepped up."

Many city council members took the opportunity to bash the NRA.

"You have groups like the NRA who are merchants of death, who peddle instruments of death," said Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward.

"We have got to let people know the NRA is the demon," said Ald. Dick Mell-33rd Ward.

"For these guys to call the NRA demons, what is wrong with these people?" said Don Haworth, NRA member.

The changes also deal with school safety, which has been a hot issue in Chicago since Emanuel began pushing for the closure of 50 schools and programs. Parents have raised concerns about children crossing gang lines, among other things. The council passed a measure to increase penalties for serious weapon and gun-related offenses in "student safety zones" along Safe Passage routes, in schools buses and around schools and some parks in an ordinance introduced Wednesday.

The measures define "student safety zones," and outlines stiffer penalties for gun crimes committed there. The zones are 1,000 feet from school grounds between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. when school is in session and what are being called safe passage routes. Those routes, which will be patrolled by safety advocates, have been outlined for children to get to school safely if there are closures.

"Safe passage to schools is a key component of ensuring each and every one of our children has access to a quality public education. This ordinance helps ensure our children can focus on their studies and not their safety while fulfilling their educational dreams," Emanuel said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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