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Emanuel's Gun Proposal Harks Back to Richard J. Daley

Posted: 02/13/2012 3:45 pm

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Illinois should have a statewide gun registry. As the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times reported, his plan is likely to run into much resistance.

Emanuel's idea isn't new. Mayor Richard J. Daley (the first Mayor Daley, that is -- father of Richard M. Daley) suggested the same thing back in the 1960s, as I covered in previous reports for Illinois Issues and WBEZ.

Here's more detail on that history from the Chicago Tribune's archives. (Author Robert Kukla, a gun-rights advocate, also told this story in his 1973 book Gun Control.)

The Illinois General Assembly began discussing a gun-registration law as early as 1965, when it voted down the idea. (Source: Tribune, June 22, 1965.) In 1966, Daley called for Springfield legislators to pass gun restrictions. "There can be no question that the great increase in juvenile crime has been accompanied by a similar increase in the possession of guns," he said. (Tribune, Dec. 1, 1966.)

State Rep. Paul F. Elward, a Chicago Democrat, introduced a gun-registry bill backed by Daley in 1967. "We're trying to find out who has the weapons," Daley said. "This is the first step." (Tribune, Feb. 23, 1967.)

In April 1967, Majority Leader Sen. W. Russell Arrington, a Republican from Evanston, introduced a bill that would take a different approach: licensing gun owners instead of the guns themselves. (Tribune, April 25, 1967.) When the Senate approved this ID bill in May 1967, the Tribune reported: "What cracked the shell of grass roots resistance this session was the whisper that such a law is vital to help police guard against large scale armed assaults in racial disturbances." (Tribune, May 23, 1967.)

The House voted down the gun-registration bill backed by Daley. One Chicago Democrat who supported it, John Touhy, called Arrington's bill for a gun owner ID card "a product of the National Rifle Association." However, Daley's point man in Springfield, Elward, vowed to support "any gun bill that comes out of this session." (Tribune, June 10, 1967.)

The House passed an ID law for gun owners by a vote of 105 to 30. Arguing for the Arrington bill over the Elward bill, Rep. Ralph T. Smith, R-Alton, said: "It isn't the gun that commits the offense. It's the individual in whose hands the weapon is held." Lawmakers voting for the bill talked about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy assassination and the recent murders in Chicago committed by Richard Speck. (Tribune, June 25, 1967.)

NRA President Harold W. Glassen praised the Republican bill creating a Firearm Owners Identification card, according to a Tribune headline -- although his comments in the article leave it unclear whether the NRA enthusiastically supported this measure or simply saw it as an acceptable compromise. (Tribune, July 28, 1967.)

As the bill sat on Gov. Otto Kerner's desk, race riots broke out in Detroit and Daley called for a voluntary embargo on gun sales in Chicago. Kerner signed the law a week later, saying it was a "strong beginning" but adding that he would have preferred Daley's bill. (Tribune, Aug. 4, 1967.)

As a result of all this legislative action, the state ended up with a Firearm Owners Identification Card -- a law that remains unique to Illinois.

After failing to get the state law that he'd wanted, Daley proposed a city ordinance requiring the registration of all firearms in Chicago. The City Council approved the measure in January 1968. (Tribune, Feb. 1, 1968.)

In the years that followed, Daley continued to push for gun control. In 1972, after presidential candidate George Wallace was shot and wounded, Daley made an emotional plea for a national ban on handguns. "What kind of society have we?" he said. "And why in the name of God in this year of 1972 can't we get a law through Congress prohibiting the manufacture and production of the handgun and a law to stop importing them? We've been trying for years to get legislation but we have had weak people running away from it."

At the same time, Francis P. Kane, the mayor's special assistant in charge of gun registration, doubted that any such gun ban would pass. "If a ban were passed it might create a huge black market, like that for liquor during Prohibition," he said. Instead, Kane called for a national gun registry. (Tribune, May 17, 1972.)

Testifying before Congress in 1972, Daley said: "As far as I am concerned, the only purpose of a handgun in unauthorized hands is to kill." (Tribune, June 29, 1972.) In an editorial the following week, the Tribune agreed with Daley's call for a national handgun ban. "The handgun must be taken out of circulation even if takes a sweeping federal law to do it," the newspaper said. (Tribune, July 6, 1972.)

It was another Chicago mayor, Jane Byrne, who pushed the City Council to ban any new handguns in 1982. (Previously registered guns were grandfathered in.)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Byrne's law unconstitutional in 2010. It's now legal to own a handgun in Chicago -- as long as you get a permit from the city. If Emanuel gets his way, a similar gun-registration system would go into effect statewide.

 

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