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Hadiya Pendleton's Parents Push for Federal Gun-Trafficking Bill

By Erica Demarest | March 8, 2013 1:17pm | Updated on March 8, 2013 3:45pm

DOUGLAS — The parents of slain teen Hadiya Pendleton urged Congress Friday to pass a gun-trafficking bill that includes a provision named for their daughter.

“We need to get common-sense laws on the books,” Hadiya’s mother, Cleo Cowley-Pendleton, said at a news conference at Chicago Police Department headquarters.

“We need to hold accountable those people who are committing senseless acts like this,” she said. “We need to allow other mothers to see their children to prom.”

The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, which was co-sponsored by Illinois Sens. Mark Kirk (R) and Dick Durbin (D), includes an amendment named after Hadiya that would punish so-called "straw purchasers" who buy guns only to hand them off to criminals.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, and could be brought to votes in the U.S. Senate and House later this year.

“Girlfriends: Think twice,” Durbin said. “Is it worth 15 years in prison to buy that gun and go sell it to some gangbanger or some boyfriend who’s going to use it to commit a crime?”

Durbin called straw purchases “a paperwork offense today.” He said the Hadiya provision would categorize them as a “hard-time federal crime.”

According to Durbin, 10 percent of the 50,000 guns Chicago police have confiscated over the last 11 years have come from Mississippi, a state where it’s easy to buy guns in bulk.

“Chicago is not an island,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. “Some of our guns come from as far away as Mississippi, some as close as Cook County.”

McCarthy has long called for stricter gun sentencing as a means of reducing violent crime in the city.

“If there were laws such as the one [Sen. Durbin] has proposed,” Cowley-Pendleton said, “it’s quite possible that my baby wouldn’t have to be part of a bill such as this.”

Hadiya’s father, Nate Pendleton, said he was “very hopeful” the bill would pass.

“I hate to say this is because of my daughter, and I hate being here for that reason, but if something good comes out of this, I’m grateful,” Pendleton said.

Hadiya, a King College Prep student, was fatally shot on Jan. 29 in a park just blocks from her school — and from President Obama's Kenwood home. Her death soon became a symbol of urban gun violence.

Nate Pendleton, who along with his wife sat with first lady Michelle Obama at this year’s State of the Union address, called the last month a “whirlwind.”

The fight for gun control “is not over," he said.

"We’ve got a long road to go, and I’m in it as long as [Congress] is in it. I’m in it even after it’s over. I’m gonna be in it forever.”

Hadiya's alleged killers were indicted Friday, just hours after her parents spoke in favor of the federal legislation.