Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Top Cop: Gun Laws Akin to 'Racism'

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new police chief blasts federal gun laws, NRA and Sarah Palin during ad-libbed sermon at St. Sabina's Church.

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The pervasion of illegal guns in America's black and Latino communities is a result of "government-sponsored racism," akin to "slavery, segregation, black codes [and] Jim Crow," Rahm Emanuel's new police chief, Garry McCarthy, told parishioners at St. Sabina's Church earlier this month.

"This is sensitive. You know, because everybody’s afraid of race. Have you noticed that? Everybody’s afraid of race. I'm not afraid of race," said McCarthy, who told of growing up in the Bronx with guns, gangs and drugs plentiful.

"Let’s see if we can make a connection here. Slavery. Segregation. Black codes. Jim Crow. What, what did they all have in common? Anybody getting scared? Government sponsored racism."

"Now I want you to connect one more dot on that chain of the African American history in this country, and tell me if I’m crazy: Federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms, into our urban centers across this country, that are killing our black and brown children," he said.

McCarthy blasted the NRA, telling parishioners that their communities have paid the price while the gun manufacturers are getting "rich and living in gated communities."

And he told an anecdote of just one night with the New York Police Department.  After returning home from investigating a pair of shootings, he said he flipped on the television to relax, only to find "Sarah Palin's Alaska" being broadcast.

"She was caribou hunting, and talking about the right to bear arms," he said. "Why wasn’t she at the crime scene with me?"

"[McCarthy] got it right on parts and got it wrong on others," said Shawn Gowder, the Vice President of the Chicago Firearms Safety Association and the Sergeant of Arms for the African American Police League.

Gowder said McCarthy was right in remarking that government-sponsored racism began with slavery and Jim Crow, but said it was wrong to make the association with that and the availability of guns.

"The crime issue has nothing to do with racism.  It has everthing to do with our ability to protect ourselves," he said.  "In Chicago, if we had our Second Amendment rights, there would be fewer criminals."

Richard Pearson, the Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said McCarthy is only attacking gun-rights advocates because "he has nothing else to offer."

"He's not talking about what the real problems are.  He's not facing the fact his gang unit failing, that the graduation rate in Chicago Public Schools is about 50 percent.  He never mentions the economic problems," said Pearson.

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