U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin stood with Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy and victims of gun violence on Friday to praise the passage of a bill he co-sponsored that would crack down on so-called straw purchasing -- where someone buys guns and sells them to others not authorized to buy weapons.
The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, a section of which is named after slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, easily moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with an 11-7 vote a day earlier. Pendleton was shot days after attending President Barack Obama's inauguration as she took cover from a rain storm in a south side park.
The measure, if passed, would call for sentences of 15 to 25 years for straw purchases. It also would create the first federal statute that specifically criminalizes firearm trafficking.
"Is this going to end gun violence? No. Is it going to slow it down? I hope," Durbin said at Chicago Police Headquarters.
He was flanked by Pendleton's parents and Sandra Wortham, the sister of Thomas Wortham, a Chicago police officer shot and killed three years ago outside the family home with a gun later discovered to have been straw purchased in Mississippi.
"We shouldn't let people get away with this because people are dying," Wortham said.
Durbin expressed confidence the bill, co-sponsored by fellow Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and introduced by senators from Vermont, Maine and New York, would wind up on the president's desk. He was less optimistic about an assault weapons ban and universal background checks, saying he was unsure whether those various gun-control proposals should be introduced separately or all bundled into one big bill.
Still, the Democrat had strong words for ne'er-do-wells and those who know them:
"If you think you can buy a trunk load of guns in the state of Mississippi, drive in to some neighborhood and 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. ... You’re facing a federal crime and hard time if you get caught in the commission of that."
Later, he added:
"Girlfriends, think twice. Is it worth 15 years in prison to buy that gun and to go and sell it to some gangbanger or boyfriend who’s going to use it to commit a crime?”
The Chicago Police Department last year removed more than 7,000 weapons off city streets. McCarthy said ending straw purchases would go a long way in helping to reduce crime in the city.
"Straw purchases is one of the ways criminals get guns. In fact, it is probably the primary method," he said.
Pendleton's parents, still grieving from their daughter's death, said they're grateful for the efforts to curb violence.
"If something can come good out of this, I'm grateful. No other parent needs to go through this," said Nate Pendleton.