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City Expands Assault Weapons Ban, Hikes Penalties For Gun Crimes Near Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- By a unanimous vote, Chicago aldermen approved two new gun control laws on Wednesday, at a special City Council meeting called by the mayor.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the first ordinance would expand the city's ban on assault weapons to include more firearms in the ban, and keep up with changes in gun technology in recent years.

Council Approves New Gun Ordinances

Mayor Rahm Emanuel scheduled Wednesday's special session to renew the assault weapons ban ahead of a deadline set under the new state law allowing people to carry concealed firearms in Illinois.

Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) was among council members applauding the expanded assault weapons ban.

"There is absolutely no need for assault weapons; none. The only thing it does is kill people. There's absolutely no need for it. Banning assault weapons is the smart move for every city to do," she said.

The ordinance lists more than 150 specific types of firearms that would be included in the ban, and expands the definition of other assault weapons that would be banned:

--Any semiautomatic rifle or handgun able to accept a detachable magazine, and with one or more military feature.
--Any semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
--Any semiautomatic handgun with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 15 rounds.
--Any semiautomatic shotgun able to accept a detachable magazine, with one or more military feature, or able to hold more than 5 rounds.
--Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

Military features include folding, telescoping or detachable stocks; barrel shrouds; grenade, flare, or rocket launchers; threaded barrels. For handguns, a second pistol grip also qualifies as a military feature; and for shotguns and rifles, a forward grip qualifies.

Penalties for possessing assault weapons would remain the same, ranging from a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, and from 90 to 180 days in jail.

The other ordinance increases penalties for gun crimes committed in school zones, on school buses, and along Safe Passage routes to and from schools.

The measure defines a "school safety zone" as school grounds – and any spot within 1,000 feet of a school – between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on any day school is in session. On other days when a school is hosting a school activity, the same area would be considered a "school safety zone" from one hour before, until one hour after the scheduled activity.

Safe Passage routes established by the city for students to travel to and from school will be posted on the Internet.

Anyone convicted of carrying a gun in school safety zones, on school buses, or along Safe Passage routes would face a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and one to six months in jail. A second offense would be punishable by a fine of $5,000 to $15,000 and three to six months in jail. A third offense would be punishable by a fine of $10,000 to $20,000 and six months in jail.

State laws already carry stiffer jail sentences for gun crimes near schools, but judges don't always impose prison sentences for such offenses, so the city hopes stiffer financial penalties will act as a deterrent.

The National Rifle Association has said the new laws won't do any real good, but the mayor said they are a vital first step, and will reduce crime.

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