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Rahm Pushes 'Safe Passage' Gun Laws in School Zones After CPS Closings

By Ted Cox | June 26, 2013 3:20pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday moved to stiffen penalties for gun possession in school zones and along "safe passage" routes.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday moved to stiffen penalties for gun possession in school zones and along "safe passage" routes.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing tougher penalties for gun possession in designated "school safety zones" as the city prepares to deal the changes this fall stemming from the Chicago Public Schools' decision to close 50 schools.

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, the mayor submitted the ordinance, which will be sponsored on the floor by five aldermen: Latasha Thomas (17th), Jo Ann Thompson (16th), Joe Moreno (1st), Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th).

The ordinance would create "school safety zones," including designated "safe passage" routes from the closed CPS schools to so-called welcoming schools. The measure would greatly increase penalties for guns, ammunition and other "dangerous weapons" carried into those areas during daylight hours when children are present.

"It is essential that we make sure we do everything to bring safety to all our communities and neighborhoods throughout the city," Emanuel said.

The basic hours would be 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., but would extend past any school event in the evening. The school safety zones would extend 1,000 feet from any school and include any public park with boundaries within that area.

Those convicted would face an initial fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and a mandatory 30-day jail term. Subsequent convictions would lead to increased penalties, including maximum fines of $15,000, then $20,000, and mandatory jail terms of three months, then six months.

Parents, students, politicians and community groups have decried the closings, saying they will put children at risk as they walk from the area surrounding a closed school to another school.

"This ordinance is a key step in ensuring our children's safety," Maldonado said. "I am pleased that we have taken a step toward greater safety and a better education for our students."

The mayor also submitted a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, a move meant to complement the state's new concealed-carry legislation that awaits the governor's signature. If approved, that law would give municipalities 10 days to enact new or updated assault weapon legislation.

"Weapons that are designed for the battlefield have no place on the streets of Chicago," Emanuel said. "The assault-weapon ban, and making sure it's comprehensive, is part of that overall strategy of bringing safety throughout our streets."

The new law would not change the current penalties, which call for fines of $1,000-$5,000 and jail terms of three to six months for those possessing the guns or ammunition clips.