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Mayor Richard M. Daley has announced an increase in firepower for Chicago police.

In the aftermath of last weekend’s violence, Police Superintendent Jody Weiss is equipping the force with M4 carbines, high-powered assault rifles.

Daley said the new guns would match the firepower of street gangs they’re up against, under a policy change in the works to stop the bloodshed on the city’s streets.

Weis’ decision to arm and train his 13,500 officers with more powerful weapons was disclosed as Daley emerged from a City Hall summit meeting with a plea to every Chicagoan who cares about children.

“I don’t want people to wait for Mayor Daley to call a meeting. I want you to call a meeting in your home, with your children and loved ones. I want you to … talk to those children next door. I want the parents on the block to say, ‘This block will be free of violence. This summer, not one child will be [killed by] gangs and drug dealers,’ ” Daley told a City Hall news conference.

Chicago Police SWAT teams are already equipped with M4 carbines, but rank-and-file officers are out-gunned. They’re only allowed to carry pistols.

Used by the U.S. Marine Corps, the M4 is an assault rifle that fires more shots in less time than a conventional handgun. The fully automatic version can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute, although the magazines hold 20 to 30 shots.

Last week, police arrested a man suspected of using an AK-47 during a shoot-out with police just after he allegedly used the gun to kill a man at a South Side plumbing business.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue welcomed the change, as long as the Police Department pays for the weapons and officers are properly trained and given discretion in using the M4.

New York City police officers recently started patrolling subways with similar assault weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs. In the Chicago area, some suburban police departments have carried assault weapons since the mid-1990s.

Timing and logistics of the change in firepower have not yet been ironed out.

First, the weapons must be purchased — and it’s not yet clear who will pay for them. Officers currently chose from a list of authorized handguns and pay out of their own pockets. Second, they must be trained in how to use them.

Finally, the Police Department must determine whether the new weapons would remain in squad cars or be carried by officers.

Additional information provided by Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

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