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Slayings dim hopes in Chicago

CHICAGO — A bloody weekend in which seven people died has abruptly ended, for now, hopes that Chicago might be putting a lid on its frightening homicide rate.

The homicides put the total for the year at 40 — the same as for January 2012. That year ended with more than 500 homicides for the first time since 2008. With a few days still left in the month, Chicago is poised to have the deadliest January since 2002, when there were 45 homicides.

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Police say the homicide rate is a reflection of the city’s gang problem and a proliferation of guns. Chicago has what city officials have called the strictest handgun ordinance in the country. But police officials say more should be done.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy wants lawmakers to increase jail time for those who are caught with illegal weapons, including for felons who aren’t allowed to have them and for straw purchases — people buying guns for others who are not supposed to have them.

Chicago’s handgun ordinance bans gun shops in the city and prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes with a handgun. The city passed the restrictions in July 2010 after the US Supreme Court struck down an outright ban.

Among those killed was a 34-year-old man whose mother had already lost her three other children to shootings.

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