CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined several Illinois mayors on Thursday in calling for a statewide ban on the kind of weapons used during the school shooting rampage in Connecticut.
The mayors gathered at a news conference designed to show that support for tougher gun laws comes from both political parties and communities big and small. Emanuel said all Illinois communities could find "common ground" in supporting bans on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips, and criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm.
Emanuel, who leads a city that for years has been a national leader in gun control initiatives, said that even as Washington grapples with the issue, Illinois elected officials must push for tougher local gun laws.
"Whether you are Democrat or Republican, whether you are rural or urban or suburban ... having comprehensive legislation at the national level doesn't mean that we shouldn't do what we need to do here in the state," he said.
More than 20 mayors and local leaders are backing the effort, and Emanuel was flanked by eight mayors on Thursday from several cities and towns, including Gary, Ind., another community plagued by gun violence. Diamond Mayor Teresa Kernc, who leads the village of roughly 2,500 people about 50 miles south of Chicago, is also backing the effort.
"Those of us who live and lead in small towns, our voices are just as important as our colleagues in larger cities," said Kernc, a former Bolingbrook police officer.
She said the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn., devastated communities far beyond its borders.
"We didn't lose somebody else's children," she said. "These children belong to all of us."
Kernc stressed that communities like Diamond – home to many avid hunters – should support such bans.
"Assault rifles, assault magazines those are simply for slaughter," she said. "Those aren't for hunting."
Emanuel, who has long been an advocate of tougher gun laws, said he spent the days following the Connecticut shootings recruiting the more than 20 mayors and community leaders in Illinois to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The coalition includes hundreds of mayors and other local leaders from across the country.
When state legislators return to Springfield in January, guns will certainly be on the agenda.
After a federal appeals court struck down the state's concealed carry law, lawmakers said they would craft a new concealed weapons law – with Emanuel and other gun control advocates saying they would make their voices heard. Following the shootings in Connecticut, Gov. Pat Quinn also said the state should ban assault weapons and that he had already reached out to lawmakers and sponsors of a proposed ban.