SOUTH LOOP — The mayor called on state legislators to have a "sense of urgency" in adopting stricter gun-control laws in the wake of last week's mass shooting in Back of the Yards.
"I want Springfield to have the same urgency and sense of urgency that the people of the City of Chicago's state representatives have," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in his first public news conference this week. "The same sense of urgency where we don't have another incident."
Emanuel echoed Police Supt. Garry McCarthy in pointing out one of the alleged shooters would not have been on the streets if the state had the same three-year mandatory minimum sentence for gun crimes that the state of New York has.
"This is where we have a fundamental weak link and a broken link in the system," Emanuel said. "The criminal-justice system is not a deterrent anymore. It's a revolving door.
"Springfield needs to step up, needs to be part of the solution," he added.
Emanuel said even gun advocates should have no qualms about imposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crime.
"I don't consider them tough votes. I consider them the right vote," he said.
Emanuel has called for tougher state gun laws before, and those calls have fallen on deaf ears. He said he had stepped up lobbying efforts by talking with top leaders in the General Assembly in the last 48 hours, telling them to "use" the Back of the Yards shooting to "finally" change the laws.
Emanuel also called for neighborhood involvement in solving shootings and murders.
"You can no longer live by a code of silence," he said. "Communities must live by a moral code."
He pledged a continued emphasis on police foot patrols and "getting the department focused on gang violence." Police have said the Cornell Square Park incident was triggered by gang members seeking revenge. Emanuel said he did not see the need to hire additional officers citywide, but promised to keep the department at what is now considered "full strength."
The mayor said he had gone on a "ride-along" with McCarthy Sunday night visiting foot patrols in tough neighborhoods, and he was struck above all by the way a concentration of squad cars combined with foot patrols to establish a noticeable police presence in those areas.
"We want to explore how to actually expand on that," Emanuel added.
He also pledged a renewed emphasis on after-school programs, saying, "I'm gonna continue to invest in that and expect more in that area."
The mayor made the remarks at a South Loop construction site for a news conference trumpeting the return of Power Construction's formal headquarters to the city, at 8750 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. in O'Hare. Founded in the city in 1926, Power Construction formally moved its office base from Chicago 80 years ago, but has remained one of the area's top construction firms and is returning thanks to a package of tax incentives provided by the state, to keep it from moving to northern Indiana.