Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy today called for tougher gun laws and reiterated his opposition to legalizing the concealed carry of handguns in Illinois.
“The answer to guns is not more guns,” McCarthy said during a panel discussion about gun violence that was part of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s weekly forum at its headquarters in the city’s Kenwood neighborhood.
McCarthy, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., WVON-AM radio host Cliff Kelley and others discussed gun laws, Chicago’s homicide rate and recent mass killings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., in front of an audience of a few hundred people.
McCarthy stressed his opposition to allowing the concealed carry of handguns in Illinois, even though Illinois is the only state in the country that doesn’t permit the practice.
“Just because it’s 49 to one doesn’t mean that Illinois is wrong,” McCarthy said.
Kelley pointed out that recent court rulings have put the future of the state’s ban on concealed carry in doubt. Last month, a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Chicago threw out the state ban, giving lawmakers six months to figure out how to let people carry guns legally outside their homes.
But McCarthy said those who support concealed carry don’t realize the potential effects of allowing people to carry guns in public.
“When people say concealed carry, I say Trayvon Martin,” McCarthy said, referring to the unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed last February by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, sparking controversy across the country.
“I say Trayvon Martin,” McCarthy continued. “Because the answer to guns is not more guns, and just simply putting guns in people’s hands is going to lead to more tragedy.”
McCarthy also outlined five steps that he said would cut down on gun violence and prevent felons and gang members from acquiring guns: banning assault weapons; banning high-capacity magazines; requiring background checks for anyone who buys a gun; mandatory reporting of the sale, transfer, loss or theft of a gun; and mandatory minimum prison sentences for people convicted of illegally possessing a gun.
“All five of these points are reasonable,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also criticized the politicization of the debate over gun control in the wake of the Newtown massacre at an elementary school last month. Those debating the future of gun laws should be able to find a “middle-of-the-road solution,” he said.
Jackson opened the discussion by saying that the United States is “the most violent nation on Earth” and asked McCarthy about Chicago’s role in the national discussion about gun violence.
McCarthy said the number of guns available on Chicago’s streets is a primary reason why the city’s homicide total is so high.
“Every single year the Chicago Police Department seizes more guns than any city in the country,” the superintendent said. The department seized about 7,400 guns last year, he said.
While addressing the media after the discussion, McCarthy said only about 300 of the guns seized by the department last year were assault weapons. That fact shows that discussions about tightening gun laws should focus on all types of guns, not just assault weapons, he said.
Jackson did not address the media after the forum and did not mention his daughter-in-law Sandi Jackson during the event. Sandi Jackson resigned as Chicago's 7th Ward alderman Friday, citing “very painful family health matters.”
Her resignation came less than two months after her husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., quit his congressional seat amid ongoing federal ethics probes into his campaign finances and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.