CITY HALL — Out to beat a deadline mandated by the state's new concealed-carry law, the City Council in a special session on Wednesday passed a ban on assault weapons and harsher penalties for possession of a weapon near a school or along "safe passage" routes.
The measures passed without opposition on a 46-0 vote.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said the stiffener penalties for weapons near schools were "desperately needed," and said anyone who wanted to own an assault weapon should stay out of Chicago.
"Nobody has any business with one," Austin said, adding that those who feel they should have such weapons should move to "the latter part of the State of Illinois" where they're more tolerated.
"There's absolutely no need for assault weapons. None," said Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th).
"Tell me what hunter goes out there with an AK-47," added Ald. Ray Suarez (31st).
In debate over gun control in a Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, Austin bemoaned the 180-day maximum jail term the city was limited to by state law.
The "safe passage" ordinance would create "school safety zones" of 1,000 feet around all schools, and would include any park with its boundaries within that range. It would also apply to designated "safe passage" routes from schools closed this year to welcoming schools in the fall.
It would greatly increase fines, from $1,000 to $5,000 on the first offense to maximums of $15,000 and $20,000 on subsequent crimes. It would also institute mandatory jail terms of 30 days, then three months, then six months, which city attorney Rose Kelly told the committee Tuesday was the maximum possible.
Along with attacks on the National Rifle Association, that was a familiar refrain at Wednesday's special council meeting, led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"Today's vote is actually a vote for our values, let alone our public safety," Emanuel said after the amended ordinances passed. "The weak link to protect our streets are our gun laws."
Emanuel called for statewide mandatory minimum sentencing on gun crimes in the General Assembly, "where the NRA does have sway, not here in this city council.
"They are not welcome in this city council," he added. "They're always welcome to speak, but their values do not reflect the values of this city. ... But down in Springfield, we have a battle."
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) cited examples of city gun-control laws being struck down by the state, and pointed to how the new concealed-carry law would allow guns in bars and restaurants.
"Booze and bullets don't mix," said the former Chicago cop. "Even in the Old West."
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) repeated an argument he made the day before on NRA lobbying efforts, citing the $32 million it spent on 2012 federal elections. "They have effectively distorted our democracy at the federal level," Pawar said.
"The NRA is the demon," added Ald. Richard Mell (33rd).
That came a day after Pawar and other aldermen on the Public Safety Committee tangled with Todd Vandermyde, spokesman for the NRA's Illinois chapter. Vandermyde testified that the new city ordinances would not survive court challenges and suggested they overstepped the city's authority on gun control.
"They don't make it real easy to exercise your rights under the constitution here," Vandermyde said.
Ald. James Balcer (11th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, cited his service in the Vietnam War in warning Vandermyde not to condescend to him on guns, and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) labeled the NRA's arguments "bulls**t."
The ban on assault weapons reaffirms an earlier city ban, within the context of the state's new concealed-carry law. It too stiffens penalties for violations.
Balcer admitted that of 3,828 firearms Chicago Police had confiscated this year, only 156 were assault weapons. Yet he insisted, "The ban on these weapons is needed. Safe passage is needed."
"We know full well, these two ordinances are not going to stop violence in the community," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
"This is not going to wave a magic wand and cure violence," Burke added. Yet, he insisted the council was obliged to do all it can, saying, "There is the potential to end this vicious cycle of violence."