Remarks of Mayor Richard M. Daley Federal Gun Legislation Press Conference Washington, D.C.
Friday, November 13, 1998
Yesterday in Chicago, we filed a lawsuit against 12 Chicago-area gun dealers, 17 gun manufacturers, and five gun distributors.
The suit is unique in that, rather than filing a product liability suit and claiming that the guns are defective, we're filing a public nuisance suit - the first in the nation.
We're charging these 34 defendants with creating a public nuisance by knowingly marketing and distributing guns to street gangs and criminals in the City of Chicago -- where all hand guns are banned.
We're breaking new legal ground with this lawsuit, and we hope it becomes a national test case. We hope other cities join us in holding the gun industry accountable.
The fact is, no city works harder than Chicago to keep guns off our streets.
In the last ten years, Chicago has collected and destroyed over 170 thousand illegal guns. We lead the nation, year after year, in collecting and destroying guns from criminals.
And Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in America, including a complete ban on handguns.
But, despite our best efforts, an endless supply of illegal guns continues to flow into our communities, leaving violence, tragedy and death in its wake.
Yesterday we announced the results of an investigation that shows how illegal guns flood our city. It shows how area gun dealers defy the laws and encourage their customers to deceive federal, state and local police.
It shows how "straw" buyers regularly buy dozens of guns for street gangs -- who cannot buy guns for themselves because of their criminal backgrounds. Worst of all, it shows how manufacturers and retailers knowingly market and distribute to criminals in Chicago.
Today, we're here in Washington to call for federal legislation that can help cities like Chicago enforce their gun laws, solve crimes -- and make our neighborhoods safer.
We want the federal government to require every gun sale to be reported to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms within one week. Currently, only purchases of two or more handguns from the same store at the same time must be reported.
It's a huge loophole. Anyone can buy 10 hand guns from 10 different stores in the same day - and as our investigation shows, that's exactly what the "straw" buyers do who supply street gangs with guns.
Our three undercover police officers bought 170 guns within three weeks, and the gun dealers were only too happy to tell them how to get around the reporting requirements, how to defy the law, and how to make guns less traceable.
People have to register cars, so why not require them to register guns?
A national database would help us target gunrunners before a crime is committed, instead of waiting until after somebody is dead or crippled by gun violence.
Our system of gun-tracing today is ridiculously out-of-date. It's done by telephone and in-person visits to a store by a police detective-- not by computer.
Credit card companies can run instant credit checks for everyone in America, but it takes police weeks to trace a single gun. And it starts at the scene of a crime, when they find a gun.
Then they call the manufacturer, find out the name of the dealer, go to the dealer, look at the gun purchase form, find the buyer, and then ask how the gun ended up at a crime scene.
If America is serious about gun control, then America should establish a national database for gun sales so that we can identify gun-runners and target them for investigation.
Beyond the national database, I'm proposing additional restrictions.
If it was up to me, no one but law enforcement officers would own hand guns, but I understand that it's impractical to pass a national ban.
And law enforcement officials nationwide say that any limit is better than no limit - which is what we have today: no limit, meaningless restrictions, and easy access to dangerous guns for anybody who wants them.
So, I'm supporting a one gun per month limit on handgun purchases, and I would like to see that limit become federal law. We can't have different laws in different states. We need a national restriction.
The last piece of the federal proposal is to forbid any gun sales when the seller should know that the buyer intends to use the guns for criminal purposes or illegally resell them.
In the Chicago investigation, gun sellers were told the guns were being used for gang activity; they were told that the guns were for other people; and they were told they were being taken into Chicago, where they are banned.
But the gun dealers they went ahead with the sales anyway.
And the guns they are selling could only be designed for gang warfare: guns that are easily concealed; guns that have excessive firepower; guns that can easily be converted to automatic weapons; and guns that hold up to 100 rounds in a single clip.
With over 35,000 people killed by guns last year in America, the gun industry cannot continue to ignore its responsibility to keep guns away from criminals.
But as long as they do, we will continue to push for tougher laws. We will fight them in court. We will go after their assets. We will do everything we can to make it impossible for them to do business.
We hold polluters accountable for poisoning the environment. We hold liquor stores accountable for selling to minors. It's time to hold the gun industry accountable.
Innocent people are dying. Children are dying. And they're making money.
I'll be forwarding this legislation to members of our Congressional delegation.