Reporting Jay Levine
CHICAGO (CBS) – Another showdown might be brewing in our nation’s capital, already split by debate over how to avoid the looming the fiscal cliff. Now, it’s a push to renew the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, because of the shooting massacre last week in Connecticut.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday pledged to move quickly on tightening gun control laws. He formed a task force to give him recommendations within a month.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports Obama was essentially preaching to the choir at Chicago’s City Hall, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy had already called for a ban on assault weapons.
Struggling with the fallout from too many weapons in the wrong hands, Emanuel and McCarthy have been hoping to take advantage of the momentum to ban assault weapons to get handguns off the streets too.
The mayor and superintendent were showing off the first part of their new fleet of police cars: 4-wheel drive Ford Explorer SUVs and Interceptor sedans manufactured at Ford’s rejuvenated Torrence Avenue plant.
Tony Reinhardt, Ford Motor Company’s regional director of government and community relations, said, “Mayor Emanuel was very involved in expressing his desire for these to be built right here in Chicago, and the good news is that’s where they’re built.”
But the mayor, mindful of what was happening in Washington, cautioned that providing police with the proper resources doesn’t begin or end with new vehicles.
“Let’s have a comprehensive strategy to fight crime on our streets, by making sure we have an assault weapon ban, equal and in support of our Police Department,” Emanuel said.
President Obama made that commitment this morning, mindful of recent calls for action that went nowhere.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said.
The mayor didn’t take questions after Wednesday’s event, but McCarthy spoke at length about what he thought needed to be done – starting with a discussion of the limits of the gun lobby’s guiding principal: the constitutional right to bear arms.
“We don’t allow people to have howitzers, mortars and hand grenades. So the question becomes at what level do we draw the bar? And that’s there the debate on something like assault weapons comes in,” McCarthy said. “The devastating nature, and the lethality of those bullets is overwhelming.”
While assault weapons they were responsible for Friday’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and a number of other recent mass murders, McCarthy said the violence problem in Chicago won’t be solved by simply banning assault weapons.
“If that’s the only thing we do, then I think we’re also gonna miss the boat, because at the end of the day, while we’ve seized like 7,000 firearms this year in the city of Chicago, the fact is the majority have not been assault weapons. The majority are handguns,” he said.
While the mayor and McCarthy will publicly back the president on a proposed assault weapons ban and other gun control initiatives, Chicago needs more to solve its problems.
McCarthy is not seeking an outright ban on handguns – given that Chicago’s old ban on handguns was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court – he wants to take handguns out of the wrong hands by keeping better track of guns to prevent them from easily going from the hands of legal gun owners to those of criminals.