President Donald Trump incorrectly asserted once again Tuesday that Chicago has “the strongest gun laws in our nation” as he argued that tougher regulations would not have stopped the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, over the weekend.
In fact, Trump told reporters in Seoul, South Korea, that “hundreds more” would have died in the Texas church had another man not been able to “neutralize” the alleged killer with a gun of his own.
Trump made the comments when asked during a news conference whether he would entertain “extreme vetting” on guns in the wake of the shooting in which a gunman killed 26 people.
“Look at the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation — Chicago,” Trump replied. “Chicago is a disaster, a total disaster. If this man did not have a gun or rifle it would have been a much worse situation in the great state of Texas.”
Later in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ripped Trump’s response, saying the president should be showing leadership rather than “pointing fingers.”
“You would think that after Las Vegas and after Texas, President Trump would actually see the responsibility he has as a president to lead,” Emanuel said.
A day after participating in a Georgetown University panel on the 25th anniversary of the election of President Bill Clinton, Emanuel cited the Clinton-era assault weapons ban and Brady gun control law as the kinds of steps a leader should be taking.
“(Trump) is not using the bully pulpit to lead, change laws, realizing that it’s time for the type of strengthening of our gun laws that’s necessary for our public safety,” Emanuel said at an unrelated event.
Chicago’s reputation for strict gun laws stems from its 1982 ban on handguns. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar ban in the District of Columbia in 2008, Chicago was the only major city left with a blanket handgun prohibition.
In 2010, the high court followed up with a ruling that specifically nullified Chicago’s ban. Concealed carry of firearms was still outlawed in Chicago and throughout the state.
But two years later, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Illinois concealed carry ban as unconstitutional and the state soon after became the last in the nation to approve concealed carry.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for stricter gun laws, currently ranks Illinois eighth in the nation on its “Smart Gun Laws” report card. The group has criticized Illinois for not requiring registration of firearms, for not limiting the purchase of multiple firearms and for not allowing local jurisdictions to regulate firearms.
Among cities, experts say New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco have stricter gun laws on the books.
But gun rights advocates still view Illinois as having very restrictive gun laws. It is, for example, one of five states that prohibit gun owners from carrying handguns that are visible to the public, while 31 other states allow for what’s known as the “open carry” of a firearm — no permit required — though in some cases the gun must be unloaded.
In Illinois, by law, those with concealed carry permits are prohibited from bringing firearms into schools, public parks and playgrounds, government buildings, all public transit and any building with a “no gun” sign or sticker clearly visible at the entrance.
Also, Illinois does not recognize out-of-state-issued concealed carry permits, so out-of-towner permit holders can’t legally walk around town with a gun in their coat. But non-Illinois residents, if they’re driving through the state, can have it in the car.
Trump has continually portrayed Chicago as having the most stringent gun regulations in the country.
In his final debate with Hillary Clinton on Oct. 19, Trump declared, “In Chicago, which has the toughest gun laws in the United States, probably you could say by far, they have more gun violence than any other city.”
He has raised the issue — and the same claim — often since his election.
During his news conference in Seoul, Trump appeared irritated by the question on gun control and suggested it was not appropriate to talk about “in the heart of South Korea.”
He then answered by saying, “If we did what you are suggesting, it would have made no difference three days ago.”
Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 26 people in a church. Another man, Stephen Willeford, later grabbed his own gun and exchanged fire with Kelley outside the church. Police found Kelley dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but authorities said Willeford helped stop Kelley and called him a “hero.”
Trump referred to Willeford as a “brave man” and said “if he had not had a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. … It’s not going to help.”
Tribune reporter John Byrne and the Washington Post contributed.