President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden laid out their proposal for new gun control legislation Jan. 16. Prompted by the Sandy Hook massacre, the demand for drastic reform in gun control legislation has reached its peak. The most notable changes pertaining to the country would be the mandatory background checks before a gun purchase, the ban on civilian possession of assault weapons and the limiting of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
Many of the laws proposed by Obama are already in effect in Chicago, such as the ban on assault weapons and the limited rounds. The City of Chicago also requires all firearms to be registered, and Illinois is the only state that does not allow concealed carry of handguns. Chicago was one of the first major U.S. cities to ban handguns in 1982, until the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and violated the Second Amendment in 2010.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, however, has frequently called for tougher gun laws. McCarthy announced a five-point plan for new firearm regulations, including the restriction of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks before a gun purchase, mandatory recordings of the sale and transfer of guns, and mandatory sentencing for illegal gun possession Jan. 14.
In 2012, the Chicago Police Department confiscated more than 7,400 guns, 300 of them assault weapons. Chicago ended 2012 with 513 homicides, a 15 percent increase from 2011.
At the press conference announcing the gun control proposal, Obama referenced his hometown.
“That most fundamental set of rights — to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness — fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate, and all the families who’ve never imagined that they’d lose a loved one to a bullet, those rights are at stake,” said Obama, “We’re responsible.”
One day after Obama’s press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote a proposal that would increase the amount of jail time for certain gun violations from three months to six months. Emanuel also said he favors Obama’s proposed gun control legislation.
DePaul law professor Leonard Goodman also said that the new measures would not sufficiently lower Chicago’s crime rate, although they will probably make some sort of positive impact.
“Background checks are a good idea, and so are limits on multi-round magazines and types of weapons,” said Goodman. He thinks they will make a “big difference” in Chicago’s rate of gun-related crimes.
However, Goodman went on to say that legislation should “restrict the number of guns purchased lawfully” in order to prevent them from appearing on the black market. Fundamentally, he believes that only more restrictions than those proposed will actually make a substantial difference in Chicago and the nation as a whole.
DePaul student Michelle Mueller said that while “(an) increased police force could definitely help manage the magnitude of Chicago’s gun crimes,” new legislation won’t “solve a lot of the petty crime that happens in Chicago because assault rifles aren’t necessarily the root of the problem.”
Many people think the legislation could have positive effects, but it cannot be expected to fix the problem entirely. DePaul student Livia Harkow said the new gun control legislation “symbolizes a need and a hope to change our current system and culture.” However, Harkow said that the new legislation, even if it passes, “cannot and will not be the end to the violence.”