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

As President Obama comes to Chicago to talk gun control, Illinois' Republican senator, Mark Kirk, is pushing a bill to target gun trafficking. It's under the radar, but could have a greater impact than other bills.

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Sen Mark Kirk of Illinois, seen here in a photo from last year, is one of the few Republicans in Congress who supports gun-control legislation.

Bill Zars/Daily Herald/AP/File

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As President Obama pushes for gun control in Chicago Friday, an unexpected ally from his home state, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois, is crossing party lines to propose legislation that could have a greater impact than higher-profile proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, experts say.

Senator Kirk and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York introduced the bill, which targets gun trafficking, last week.

The bill defines gun trafficking as a crime. It focuses on organized crime, cartels, and street gangs, and makes it illegal to purchase, sell, or transfer more than one firearm to someone – or on the behalf of someone – who could be reasonably expected to use it in a crime. Gun shop owners who knowingly facilitate such purchases would also be liable. Maximum penalties are 20 years in prison.

“Kirk’s take is really interesting, no one else is talking about that,” says Wayne Steger, a political scientist at DePaul University in Chicago. “Gun running across state borders and selling to unlicensed and unregistered people is the big problem.”

According to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which researches gun violence and crime policy, the majority of guns confiscated or used in crimes in Chicago were purchased outside the city limits. The top source states for firearms recovered in Chicago include Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Texas. These states either have weaker gun laws or are historically connected to Chicago over generations, with families residing in both areas.

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