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Hadiya Pendleton gun-trafficking bill’s message: ‘Girlfriends, think twice’

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Updated: April 10, 2013 6:08AM



As a gun-trafficking bill he co-sponsored heads for a full U.S. Senate vote, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin had a stern message for Chicago gang-bangers and their cohorts Friday, even as he acknowledged a broader package of gun-control measures faces a far tougher sell on Capitol Hill.

“If you think you can buy a trunk load of guns in the state of Mississippi, drive in to some neighborhood or alley way in the city of Chicago, pop open the trunk and sell it to every gang-banger who shows up with $200, get ready,” Durbin said, speaking at Chicago Police headquarters. “You’re facing a federal crime and hard time if you get caught in the commission of that.”

Durbin’s comments came a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the “Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act,” a bill whose co-sponsors include Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. The legislation takes aim at a problem Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy — who stood with Durbin Friday — has said is critical to reducing gun violence — the flood of guns into the city from the suburbs and beyond.

The legislation would crack down on people who can legally buy guns who then pass them on to criminals. These so-called “straw purchases” are the main way criminals get their hands on firearms, McCarthy says.

Under the proposed bill, the gun-buyer could face up to 25 years in prison. The bill also creates the first federal statute to specifically criminalize firearms trafficking, according to Durbin’s office.

“We’ve got to let people know we’re not going to look the other way, and this bill does this,” Durbin said.

A key portion of the bill is named after Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old majorette who had just returned from attending President Barack Obama’s inauguration when she was shot in what police say was a case of mistaken identity.

Cleo Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya’s mother, stood with Durbin and McCarthy Friday, urging passage of the bill. “We need to get common sense laws on the books,” she said. “We need to hold accountable those people who are committing senseless acts like this.”

Durbin said he’s optimistic that the gun trafficking bill will be signed into law.

“I don’t sense the kind of strong opposition to this bill that I do on some other aspects on the gun control agenda,” Durbin said.

Those other aspects includes a ban on assault rifles, which Durbin supports.

“It will be the hottest one politically, and the toughest one to get through the House of Representatives,” Durbin said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush introduced his own gun trafficking bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, a Rush spokeswoman said.

Lance Trover, a spokesman for Sen. Mark Kirk, said: “Senator Kirk is committed to continue working in a bipartisan effort with senators [Joe] Manchin, [Charles] Schumer, [Tom] Coburn and others in order to find a common sense solution for enhanced background checks. His goal is to pass a bill that will close loopholes in the current background check process in a way that does not burden law-abiding citizens.”



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