Emanuel: Pass the Cmdr. Paul Bauer gun act in Illinois or face the voters’ wrath

SHARE Emanuel: Pass the Cmdr. Paul Bauer gun act in Illinois or face the voters’ wrath
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Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was killed while pursuing a suspect on Feb. 13. | Sun-Times file photo

The National Rifle Association has it backward: When we let bad guys have guns, the good guys are the ones they go after.

Less than two months into this year, Chicago police officers have already recovered more than 1,000 illegal firearms. And less than two weeks ago, we suffered a tragic reminder of the daily dangers our officers confront when Cmdr. Paul Bauer gave his life in selfless service to our city.

OPINION

Our city can pass some of the toughest, smartest gun control legislation in the country, and we have. Our courageous police officers can do the difficult, dangerous work of taking guns off the street, and they do. But Chicago is not an island. If neighboring states and the federal government fail to follow our lead in passing tougher gun measures, too many of our police officers and residents are the ones who will continue to pay the price.

This week, the state Legislature in Springfield will take up the Commander Paul Bauer Act along with a package of complementary gun control legislation that would strengthen public safety, stem the flow of guns to Chicago and hold gun dealers accountable for their practices. It is about time.

The Commander Paul Bauer Act would ban the sale of high capacity magazines and body armor, like those Cmdr. Bauer’s killer was armed with, to anyone other than police officers.

The Gun Dealer Licensing Bill, mirroring an ordinance the Chicago City Council passed in 2014, would require background checks for gun dealers and their employees, mandate them to open their businesses for inspection and record their sales. The bill, which already passed the Illinois Senate last April, would additionally compel dealers to undergo training in conducting background checks, identifying straw purchases and preventing thefts while prohibiting them from operating within 1,000 feet of schools.

The Illinois General Assembly also will consider banning bumpstocks and trigger cranks, increasing the age requirements and waiting period for purchasing assault weapons, and making it more difficult for individuals with serious mental illnesses to get guns.

No one step will solve every challenge or prevent every tragedy, but taken together these sensible solutions will move Chicago and Illinois in the right direction.

I have spent almost my entire career working towards common-sense gun control. As a member of the Clinton White House, I was given the assignment of passing the Brady Bill in 1993 and the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. That was back in the days when bipartisan cooperation on gun control was within reach. Even Ronald Reagan lent his voice in support.

It is past time for today’s elected officials to think less about their political safety and more about public safety. And if legislators do not back up our police officers and residents, voters must hold them accountable. Those of us who care about smarter, tougher gun legislation must be engaged in the political process at the same level of intensity as those who oppose it.

Today we have the wind at our backs, powered by the energy of young people, from the students in Parkland to people in Chicago and across Illinois who have raised their voices to say enough is enough.

We cannot let legislators do the bare minimum to get this issue off the table and move on. I know from experience that plenty of politicians will say one thing in public in the wake of a tragedy, but behind closed doors with the NRA they sing a different tune.

We must hold their feet to the fire. We must respond to the demand for action with public policies commensurate with the crisis.

I have spoken to the leadership of the Illinois House and Senate and they know that these key pieces of legislation are a priority for Chicago. The state has a responsibility to act, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has a duty to sign these bills into law.

Our residents and police officers are demanding tougher gun laws. Last year, the Chicago Police Department took more than 8,600 illegal guns off the street. Sixty percent came from out of state, but 40 percent came from right here in Illinois. We need Springfield to be part of the solution, and not just mimic the dysfunction and inaction of Washington, DC.

Enough is enough.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was chief of staff to President Barack Obama from January, 2009 to October, 2010. He served as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1998.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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