Hadiya Pendleton gun law would crack down on straw purchasers

Hadiya Pendleton

March 8, 2013 2:51:05 PM PST
Hadiya Pendleton's parents joined political and law enforcement leaders Friday in a push to pass a bill named after their daughter.

The girl's death drew national attention and brought Chicago to the center of the gun control debate.

The measure is being co-sponsored by Illinois senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.

The bill is the first piece of gun legislation, named in part for Pendleton, to make its way to the full Senate since the December shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. It is supposed to crack down on the straw purchasing and trafficking of guns.

Friday, Pendleton's parents joined Senator Durbin and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to talk about the bill and share their support.

Durbin, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Kirk are sponsoring the bill they say will crack down on straw gun purchases and gun trafficking, and create harsher punishments.

"It isn't a matter of a slap on the wrist, probation and walk away from state court, it's federal crime, and a federal crime that will be taken very seriously," Senator Durbin said at Friday's press conference.

Hadiya Pendleton's parents stood by to support what they believe will bring about change to the gun violence plaguing Chicago. Their teen daughter was gunned down in a South Side park in late January by an alleged gang member. She was not the intended target.

Pendleton's death thrust Chicago violence into the national spotlight.

"We will continue to do everything we can to get guns out of the hands of criminals," said McCarthy. "But we need stronger laws to keep those guns from getting in the hands of those criminals in the first place."

"For straw purchasers, those who are going to buy guns and turn them over to the thugs and criminals, get ready. When this bill becomes law, you're gonna deal with hard-time federal crime," Durbin said Friday. "Hard-time federal crime. Let the word on the street get out. Girlfriends, think twice. Is it worth 15 years in prison to buy that gun?"

The bill does have opposition. Gun rights advocates say straw purchasing for the purpose of giving the weapon to people who can't legally get them is already a crime.

"We already have laws against straw purchases, and we're not enforcing them," said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association. "So, if we don't enforce the laws that we do have, what good is a new law if we're not going to enforce it?"

Some Republicans, including Senator John Cornyn of Texas, believe the bill will just create more problems.

"So, we double down and say this time we really mean it, when in fact the real problem, I think, is the lack of prosecution of existing crimes by the Department of Justice," Cornyn said.

The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now headed to the full Senate.

Senator Durbin says this is the first measure aimed at reducing gun violence that has already passed a major hurdle.

Men charged in Hadiya shooting to plead not guilty

Also Friday, the two men accused in the murder of Hadiya Pendleton were indicted. Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams stood before a Cook County judge as the grand jury's indictment was read.

Police say Ward admitted shooting the 15-year-old King College Prep student on January 29. Williams was the alleged getaway driver.

Attorneys for the men say they will plead not guilty at their arraignment on March 28.