CITY HALL — Saying he was out to undercut the divide-and-conquer tactics of the gun lobby, Mayor Rahm Emanuel Thursday welcomed his suburban and downstate counterparts to Chicago to push for gun control.
"There's a unanimity for common-sense legislation," Emanuel said at a news conference with seven mayors and village presidents ranging from downstate Diamond to suburban Evanston and Maywood to neighboring Gary, Ind., and including both Democrats and Republicans.
Emanuel said the group, many of whom recently joined the nationwide Mayors Against Illegal Guns in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre, was united in demanding new legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and calling for mandatory background checks on all gun purchases.
Emanuel wants clip counts capped at 10, and background checks to prevent what he called "straw purchases not from gun shops, but from the trunks of cars."
He said it was part of an overall crime strategy "putting more cops on the street and getting kids, guns and drugs off the street," but that "the missing piece of this strategy is common-sense gun legislation."
Mayor Teresa Kernc of downstate Diamond, a hamlet of 2,500 an hour southwest of Chicago, said assault weapons and ammunition "are simply for slaughter. Those aren't for hunting." Saying she has many hunters in her community, Kernc added, "We can get this done if we all work together and still keep the hunters happy, but keep our children safe."
Emanuel mentioned how last week's Connecticut school massacre caused a "sea change" in public opinion, and other mayors echoed that.
"We didn't lose someone else's children," Kernc said. "Those children belong to all of us. We need to make a strong stand and make a change in our country."
"In Evanston now, people are absolutely, unyieldingly in favor of gun control and expect it to be done," added Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.
"A lot of people claim it's different nowadays," added south suburban Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams, who said he grew up in the violent Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side 50 years ago. "From my perspective, it isn't different, because the people I knew when I was 12 are just as dead as the ones who die now."
Emanuel said the mayors united in calling on the General Assembly "to pass comprehensive gun legislation that is common sense," adding, "We shouldn't wait for Washington."
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, countered that people buying guns legally already go through a background check to get a Firearm Owner's Identification card, and that selling guns out of a car trunk is already illegal.
"If he thinks criminals are going to submit to a background check to sell guns illegally, he's smoking something," Pearson said. "They should better control people who are mentally ill and stop closing mental centers."
Illegal gun sales could be curtailed by a new law requiring gun owners to report not just sales, but the loss, theft or any transaction involving a gun, a measure Emanuel also supports.