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Gun bills would make state's streets safer
They would ban assault weapons and put dealers under greater scrutiny

Friday, April 27, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by Ricahrd A. Devine
Letter to the Editor

Events on the Virginia Tech campus have stirred debate on the issue of gun control. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims in that horrific slaughter of innocent lives. But we in Cook County have our own long list of lives lost that should spur us to action to control the tide of firearm violence on our streets.

Last year, Siretha White was attending a birthday party on Chicago's South Side when a stray bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle snuffed out her brief life. A few days later, we charged Moses Phillips with Siretha's murder.

Three weeks earlier and a few blocks away, Starkesia Reed, a 14-year-old honors student, was killed by the same kind of weapon as she got ready to go to school.

These are not isolated incidents. Other shootings, some fatal and some not, have plagued our community for years. Each year, the gun lobby succeeds in derailing common-sense legislation that is aimed at curbing the violence.

As members of the General Assembly return to Springfield from their spring recess, we are hopeful that a package of bills will become law that would go a long way toward making our streets safer.

We urge citizens across Chicago, suburban Cook County and throughout the state to support these bills. They will:

1. Ban assault weapons and 50-caliber sniper rifles (HB 873 and SB 16). Since the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004, police departments across the country have experienced an increased presence of these high-powered weapons on the streets.

2. License handgun dealers (HB 796). While gun dealers are licensed by the federal government, federal oversight of dealers is inadequate. Of the top 120 U.S. dealers with weapons used in crimes traced to them between 1996 and 2000, 13 were Illinois dealers, the second-highest concentration in the country. Of these 13 dealers, only two had been inspected by ATF agents between 1996-2000.

3. Require background checks on private handgun transfers (HB 758). There are exceptions for transfers between spouses, parent and child, or grandparent and grandchild.

4. Restrict bulk handgun sales and purchases to deter illegal trafficking (HB 1078). This bill would make it illegal for anyone to sell or purchase more than one handgun in any 30-day period.

5. Require safe storage of firearms to prevent access by children (HB 731).

6. Report firearm loss or theft (HB 1696).

These common-sense measures should be supported by any Illinois resident concerned about the safety of our community and the proliferation of weapons in our state.

Richard A. Devine,

Cook County state's attorney

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