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Editorial: Better gun laws

Sen. Mark Kirk

Sen. Mark Kirk

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Updated: July 2, 2013 7:39AM

To stop the shooting in our streets, we need better gun laws.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) pushed a plan to arrest up to 18,000 Gangster Disciples to break up the gang, much as the feds smashed Al Capone’s gang in the 1920s. If only it were that easy to make our streets safe.

Kirk made the comments after he and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) met with U.S. attorney nominee Zachary Fardon to push for strong federal prosecution of gun crimes.

We agree that Chicago’s next U.S. attorney should make gun violence his top priority. But the best step government can take is to enact laws broadening background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking.

Law enforcement already has broken up some major gangs. But that leaves us with splintered gangs fighting over control of territory as small as single blocks. Because those gang members have easy access to guns, Chicagoans are shot almost every day.

In Springfield, lawmakers haven’t helped. Under a court-imposed deadline, they are tied in knots over bills to permit the concealed carry of firearms, which just means more guns. Sensible new gun laws have become an afterthought, and a dismayingly large number of legislators are intent on wiping out the local laws we already have.

In Washington, Congress failed to enact widely supported legislation that would have closed huge loopholes in background checks. The loopholes allow criminals to buy guns on the Internet or in private sales.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said Wednesday prosecutors and police should focus on “prosecuting the most serious gun traffickers who put weapons in the hands of gang members.” But it’s up to lawmakers to give them the tools to do that.

Meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi, the leaders of the Democrats in the House, said closing background check loopholes “will make the most difference.”

Enacting the laws we need will take bipartisanship in Springfield and Washington, which is why it’s unfortunate that U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) resorted to racial name-calling in criticizing Kirk’s plan. That won’t sway any votes.

We know what needs to be done. Now, lawmakers must do it.

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