By Anna Lothson
In a letter from the office of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, Oak Park was named as one of many communities where illegal gun trafficking is "allowing gangs and violence to flourish around Illinois."
Chicago, Waukegan, Metro East, the Quad Cities, Champaign, Peoria, Cicero and Rockford were among the other cities mentioned, though Kirk said they are just part of "hundreds of communities in between" affected by the issue. He sent the letter to gain support for the bill, the Gillibrand-Kirk Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, which is co-sponsored by Kirk and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York.
"With approximately 115,000 gang members in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, Chicago has the highest concentration of gang members in the nation terrorizing our families," Kirk wrote. Gang violence contributed to 500 deaths in Chicago alone last year.
"We must put a stop to this cycle of violence," the letter said.
Citing the Chicago Crime Commission, Kirk wrote that Chicago police recover an average of 13,000 illegal weapons each year.
The bill, he said, will make gun trafficking a federal crime. It would empower local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks, including gangs, cartels and organized crime rings, according to his website.
Currently, no federal law exists that defines gun trafficking as a crime, he said. According to Kirk: "The bill will protect the constitutional rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners while giving law enforcement the tools they need to keep our families safe."