CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for stronger gun laws and stiffer penalties at the state and federal level Wednesday, but sidestepped extending that to make an endorsement in the race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.
"We can do what we need to do for the city, but we're [only] as good as what happens in the state and at the baseline at the federal level," Emanuel said at a news conference in West Humboldt Park.
Emanuel made that case as The New York Times published a story showing that a quarter of the guns seized in the city over the last five years were purchased in Cook County suburbs. Some 1,300 guns seized since 2008 came from Chuck's Gun Shop in south suburban Riverdale.
Citing an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab of 50,000 guns seized since 2001, the Times said guns could be traced to all 50 states, with about 9 percent connected to Mississippi. By law, there are no gun shops in Chicago.
Emanuel called it "fundamental" on the federal level "that we get comprehensive background checks or criminals trying to purchase a handgun." He also asked for stiffer penalties for gun violations on the state level and praised New York's mandatory three-year prison sentence for possession of an illegal firearm.
Yet he backed away from commenting on funding from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for an ad campaign against 2nd Congressional District candidate Debbie Halvorson of Crete on the gun issue, paid for by his Independence USA Political Action Committee.
The ad attacks Halvorson received an "A" from the National Rifle Association and argues "when it comes to preventing gun violence, she gets an F."
Emanuel said he hadn't talked with Bloomberg, adding, "There isn't any secret handshake between mayors."
Gun control has become a key issue in the Feb. 26 Democratic primary to replace Jackson in Congress, with Robin Kelly of Matteson hitting both Halvorson and state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) for their high ratings with the National Rifle Association.
In spite of his strong views on gun control, however, Emanuel declined to enter the fray, saying, "I have one view, which is whoever gets elected is on Team Chicago and has to be committed to helping us."
Halvorson lashed back at the attack ad Wednesday, calling it "deplorable" and "very over-the-top." She said she is not endorsed by the NRA, is not seeking the endorsement and that she supports universal background checks and registration of all firearms. She said she looked forward to returning to Washington as a congresswoman and "brokering any kind of deal that would be fair to both sides."
Elsewhere in the campaign, Kelly earned the endorsement of state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor), who dropped out of the race to throw his support behind her. Halvorson dismissed Harris as a conservative whose support tainted Kelly.
Hutchinson, meanwhile, won the public support of 48 pastors across the district.