After West Side mass shooting, Lightfoot calls for statewide ban on assault weapons and ‘switches’ that turn handguns into machine guns

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers the 2023 Budget Address during an Oct. 3 City Council meeting at City Hall.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After a shooting in East Garfield Park left 14 people wounded, Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged state lawmakers Tuesday to ban assault rifles and devices that turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns.

“Last night’s shooting reminds us that there are too many weapons of war available to criminals,” Lightfoot said in a written statement about Monday night’s shooting in the 2700 block of West Flournoy Street. “We must have a statewide ban, and I urge the legislature to act.”

Mayoral spokesman Ryan Johnson said Lightfoot was “referring to assault weapons and weapons modifications that create automatic firing.” 

Her appeal came days after a Sun-Times, WBEZ and NPR investigation found that Chicago police in recent years have recovered an increasing number of extended magazines and “auto sears,” small devices known on the street as “switches” that allow semiautomatic handguns to fire automatically.

A Chicago police officer examines a Glock handgun found May 4 in the 8200 block of South Halsted Street where a 20-year-old man was shot and wounded. According to police records, the gun was equipped with an automatic switch and extended magazine. No one has been charged in that shooting.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

At the same time, the number of machine gun prosecutions and mass shootings has risen. It’s unclear, though, whether a switch-equipped handgun was used in Monday’s mass shooting. 

Sources said rifle rounds were recovered at the scene and that an automatic weapon appeared to be among multiple guns used. But Johnson and police spokesman Don Terry cited the ongoing investigation in declining to comment on the specific firepower.

Switches are banned federally, along with bump stocks that similarly turn semiautomatic rifles into automatic weapons. Switches and bump stocks are considered machine guns under federal law — even when they aren’t attached to a firearm.

Efforts to outlaw so-called assault weapons have long been the subject of fierce partisan rancor, serving as a lasting flashpoint in the debate over gun control. A 10-year federal prohibition ended in 2004, and President Joe Biden has claimed it “brought down” mass shootings in calling for a renewed ban. 

Though some local and state officials have pushed for a statewide assault weapons ban, previous proposals have been unsuccessful. New bills focused on banning those types of guns that were filed in both chambers are likely to be addressed after the election.

Contributing: Frank Main

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November 1, 2022 at 07:16PM

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