U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, center, during a July 1 press conference in Maywood in support of gun control legislation that would make trafficking illegal firearms, like the ones pictured below, a federal crime. | Michael Romain/VFP
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk visited Maywood’s council chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave., Friday afternoon for a press conference in support of a gun control bill the senator says will help stanch the flow of illegal guns making their way into Chicago and its suburbs.
“This week, we’ve had two dozen shootings, with three deaths,” said Kirk, who Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley introduced as a champion of gun control measures. “We cannot build a 21st Century economy in Chicagoland if we’re going to be the headquarters of murder incorporated.”
The senator was flanked by activists, local politicians, village officials and relatives of gun violence victims. On a table in the area below him, beneath the board podium, were tables displaying firearms seized by the Maywood Police Department.
Kirk said he decided to call the press conference in Maywood because of his relationship with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who recommended the village. Boykin has made gun control a marquee issue since he took office last year.
According to Chicago Police Department data, 30 percent of the city’s illegal guns come from Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin. A full 60 percent of the guns recovered by CPD are from out of state.
Kirk’s bill, which he has co-sponsored with New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gellibrand, would make trafficking in such illegal firearms a federal offense and would provide law enforcement agencies the resources to remove the weapons. A similar bill, he said, failed to pass the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority by two votes last year.
Kirk said focusing on the issue of Chicago’s violence and the out-of-state gun shops that enable it might help capture the two votes needed to get to that majority. He also noted that 515 illegal guns used in Chicago area shooting crimes are directly traceable to one gun shop in Gary, Indiana.
A subtext of Kirk’s gun control messaging has been urban street gangs. He harped on that subtext at Friday’s press conference, noting that, according to Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Maywood is dealing with 17 street gangs that are responsible for the kind of senseless murders that have haunted Delphine Cherry.
Cherry, who sat next to Kirk, is the co-president of the Chicagoland chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In the early 1990s, her oldest child was shot to death while leaving a movie theater — the unintended victim of a 14-year-old’s stray bullet, which he fired from an illegal gun he obtained from an adult, who, in turn, got the gun during a straw purchase.
Cherry said she was pregnant with her youngest son at the time of her daughter’s death. Twenty years later, in 2012, he too would be shot to death. This time, while in the driveway of Cherry’s home.
“It wasn’t anything I did wrong,” said Cherry, who noted that both children were well-mannered, went to good schools and weren’t involved in the streets. “It was people around here carrying guns illegally.”
Cherry said she went all the way to Indiana to trace the origins of the gun that lead to her son’s death, but only discovered a much more terrifying reality.
“I was able to obtain three or four guns out of the trunk of somebody’s car if I wanted them,” said Cherry, a former probation officer who noted that her son’s murder is still unsolved. “If I can do that so easily, there’s no telling what these gangs are doing.” VFP