So what exactly is police superintendent McCarthy's position on gun control?

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Police superintendent Garry McCarthy has something to say about guns and gun laws. It's just not clear what exactly that is.

Several news outlets reported yesterday that McCarthy told the congregation at St. Sabina church that federal laws that allow guns to proliferate in cities like Chicago are an example of “government-sponsored racism” in the vein of slavery, segregation, black codes, and jim crow. "Everybody's afraid of race," he said. "I'm not afraid of race."

McCarthy’s statement was actually part of a bit of preaching he did during an appearance at Father Michael Pfleger’s church a few weeks ago. The clip has been circulating ever since among alarmed conservatives and gun-rights activists. You can see it on YouTube, though it has been taken down from St. Sabina's website.

If you listen to the whole segment, the superintendent comes across as less of a gun-control crusader than a skilled politician who knows how to rile up his audience without saying anything concrete.

McCarthy is an Irish cop from the Bronx looking to make an impression in his first weeks in Chicago. St. Sabina is an African-American congregation in the heart of Auburn-Gresham, a community of neat bungalows and working-class homeowners that has struggled with violence for a generation now. And Pfleger, like his friend Richard M. Daley, is an impassioned gun-control advocate. In 2007 Pfleger was rebuked by Cardinal Francis George after vowing to “snuff out” a suburban gun shop owner during a rally he and his parishioners led outside the store.

McCarthy knew his audience. Soon after he stood to speak, he got into the spirit of things and broke into something of a sermon. “God has brought me to this place," he said, to amens and applause. "There must be something about this pulpit here, because I’m feeling strong.”

McCarthy decried the gun violence responsible for killing “our black and brown children,” as he should have. Then he went into full-on political mode. He blamed illegal gun trafficking as well as firearm manufacturers. He boasted that “the NRA does not like me and I’m OK with that.” He even got in a shot at Sarah Palin—who likely had zero supporters at St. Sabina that morning—by recounting a night when he was police chief in Newark and came home from dealing with a couple of homicides to find her on TV talking about caribou hunting and the right to bear arms. “Why wasn’t she at the crime scene with me?” McCarthy said.

No one tried to answer the question—McCarthy himself followed it up by declaring, "This is what I'm talking about—changing the face of policing in this country, starting right here in Chicago." But the question wasn’t asked to get an answer. McCarthy wasn’t at the church to map out any kind of policy position so much as signal to an important south side congregation that he wanted their support.

He also told the parishioners, in a much-less quoted comment, that “We’ve got to get the gun debate back to the center”—the same thing he told the City Council earlier this month. The difference was that when he was speaking in front of aldermen he criticized the approach of both the NRA and gun-control “abolitionists,” but when he was speaking to Father Pfleger’s church, he left out the abolitionist part.

In both instances, though, McCarthy spoke passionately without saying much at all. What is this “center” he’s talking about? How can the flow of guns into the city be stopped? How should the laws be changed? He hasn't said.

Last week I reached out to his office to ask about the city’s restrictive gun law and what, if anything, it’s accomplishing, since it’s rarely enforced or complied with. He didn’t respond. So I'm still listening to see if he explains where he stands on this issue.

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