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Article updated: 2/14/2013 1:52 PM

Emanuel calling on suburban lawmakers to help with gun-control quest

By Kerry Lester

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is enlisting suburban state senators' help in his push for tougher gun control legislation.

Republican Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale told the Daily Herald Wednesday that he was among "several" suburban senators contacted by Emanuel and asked to "help in strengthening the sentencing laws for those who intentionally, illegally use a firearm."

Dillard also said that Emanuel is using New York City as an example of a metropolitan area where tough sentencing laws have worked to reduce street violence.

A spokesman in Emanuel's office said he was aware of the conversations but has yet to return messages seeking official comment.

Dillard has sponsored a number of pieces of legislation to toughen sentencing laws, including a law known as "15-20-Life," which automatically increases jail time for a criminal using a gun. Another piece makes it a felony to commit a drive-by shooting from a motor vehicle.

Dillard noted that judges are often inconsistent in sentencing gun offenders.

"There are plenty of tools available if prosecutors would use them," Dillard said, "if judges would give the maximum sentence."

Dillard said he remains open-minded about the mayor's proposal but is "waiting to see the devil in the detail. A real draft of the mayor's proposal."

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said he sat down with the mayor about two weeks ago.

As the former executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Kotowski is expected to be a key player in the debate. He said Emanuel "knows I'll be supportive in general of any measures we're talking about that will reduce gun violence."

In the past, Emanuel has made several high-profile pushes in Springfield that have fallen flat.

His bid for a Chicago casino, which would also mean more gambling in the suburbs, continues to stall. And Emanuel's pitch with suburban mayors to get pension relief for police and firefighters hasn't worked either.

Yet Kotowski said he believes the mayor will find a "sympathetic audience" in suburban lawmakers and their constituents on this quest.

"I think people in the suburbs are very concerned about the safety of our children," he said. "How crime not only impacts the city of Chicago but schools and our neighborhoods."

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