CHICAGO (AP) — Facing a climbing homicide rate, Chicago is poised for another fight over handguns — just two years after the last one.
When the U.S. Supreme Court nullified the city's 28-year-old handgun ban in 2010, Chicago responded by passing one of the nation's toughest handgun ordinances. And city officials sounded ready Thursday for another battle after a federal appeals court tossed out Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons this week.
Even as aldermen urged Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision, they suggested the City Council might push through a city ordinance that restricts who can carry a concealed weapon. After that, Alderman Joe Moore said, Chicago would do what it did for years with its handgun ban: Defend it in court.
"I believe that the city would be well within its rights to prohibit that (concealed weapons) within its borders, and then we'll take that up to the Supreme Court," Moore said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, stopping short of discussing any possible ordinance and declining to offer advice to Madigan, made it clear he was ready to face off with the gun lobby.
"I have fought this industry time and again," Emanuel told reporters Wednesday afternoon. He used the word "fought" a half-dozen times, listing his efforts to get gun legislation enacted as a congressman and an advisor for President Bill Clinton.
Emanuel also said he'd already offered Madigan whatever legal help from the city she might need in appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the same time, Emanuel promised that in the 180 days Illinois lawmakers were given to pass a concealed carry bill, he would be a "strong advocate ... for sensible gun laws to make sure we can protect people, the kids, the residents of the city of Chicago from both guns and gangs."
Gun rights advocates have long argued that Illinois' ban violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense, and that recent Supreme Court rulings have ruled in their favor.
Neither Emanuel nor City Council members detailed what they'll do in response to Tuesday's ruling. But there is little doubt that Chicago officials will do something given the heightened concerns about escalating gang violence and a homicide rate that is about 20 percent higher than last year — and could very well pass 500 deaths by Dec. 31.
Alderman Joe Moreno suggested his colleagues are waiting for word that they have the authority, as many believe they do, to write Chicago's own concealed carry law.
"I know if we do have that ability there will be several, if not the vast majority of the aldermen, who would want to put their arms around that," he said.
Among those who have tussled with Chicago over gun laws, there's a feeling officials may act regardless of whether they have the legal authority.
"Even if the (ruling) makes it illegal for Chicago to write any ordinance and made it so if they did try to force one through, they'd be setting themselves up for lawsuits ... and on the hook for damages, I (still) expect them to do something," David Lawson, a plaintiff in the 2010 handgun case that went to the Supreme Court, said Wednesday. "You can't put anything past them."
There's a feeling both inside the City Council chambers and out in the neighborhoods that the city needs to act quickly to head off what they expect to be deadly consequences of this week's ruling.
"More guns on the street will mean more lives lost," the Rev. Ira Acree, a prominent pastor on the city's West Side said Thursday.
Alderman Anthony Beale said he and his colleagues understand that sense of urgency.
"People's safety is at risk," he said.