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Obama's quiet ally: Who's behind gun control bill no one is talking about

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Kirk is not against the gun-control measures Mr. Obama is touting. In fact, he is the only Republican in the Senate who is on record saying he supports a ban on assault weapons. While a member of the House in 2008, he introduced legislation that would have renewed the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004, saying the weaponry ends up in the hands of gangs and exposes law-enforcement officers to dangers that even body armor can’t prevent.

The legislation eventually failed, but he told the the Chicago Sun-Times in January that he still supported an assault-weapons ban.

His new bill is attempting to address a different facet of gun violence. On Wednesday, Kirk said he wants to name the bill after Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who participated in Obama's inauguration and then was gunned down in Kenwood, a South Side Chicago neighborhood, three weeks ago.

After asking her parents for permission, Kirk released a statement saying that “for Hadiya, and thousands of other victims of gun violence, we must break through the typical Washington process and actually get something done that will save lives.”

Professor Steger says Kirk's legislation, as well as his continued support for an assault-weapons ban, are not likely to hurt him politically. Kirk is a Republican in a deeply blue state, so the national Republican Party will not want to make him vulnerable by supporting a challenger in the next primary.

“I can’t imagine Republicans running a primary challenge against him. When more conservative candidates run, they lose,” Steger says.

Mr. Obama mentioned Hadiya’s murder in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, in which he called on Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban, among other restrictions such as a universal background check for gun purchasers. But a bill to rein in assault weapons, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California in January, is not expected to pass either chamber.

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