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updated: 4/17/2013 7:53 PM

Kirk meets with families of Sandy Hook victims

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  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk

    U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk
    Photo courtesy of Sen. Mark Kirk's office

  • U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

    U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin
    Gilbert R. Boucher II / gboucher@dailyherald


WASHINGTON -- Both Illinois senators voted yes on a series of gun control measures in the U.S. Senate Wednesday after meeting with the families of children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The Senate rejected the bipartisan effort to expand federal background checks to more firearms buyers.

The votes came after days of high-profile lobbying by gun control advocates, including families of the Sandy Hook victims, who met Wednesday with Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, Tuesday spoke on the Senate floor about his own meeting with the school shooting victims' families last week, noting that "there wasn't a dry eye in the room."

"I met today with the families of the Newtown tragedy because I wanted to hear their stories first hand and learn about the victims themselves, just as I did with the family of Hadiya Pendleton," Kirk said in a statement Wednesday, referring to the 15-year-old Chicago girl shot in the back while at a park with friends.

Kirk noted he would "remain hopeful my colleagues will rally around common-sense, bipartisan solutions to reduce gun violence while protecting Second Amendment rights."

Kirk, a leading gun control advocate during his tenure in the U.S. House, is one of four senators who co-sponsored a failed amendment that would expand background checks to gun sales online and at gun shops.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said Kirk signed on as a supporter early on. "The first person (to offer assistance), without hesitation, was my dear friend, who said, 'I'll be part of it,'" Manchin said.

Kirk's spokesman Lance Trover said the senator worked behind the scenes to lobby other Republicans. In the end, however, only four Republicans, including Kirk, supported the deal.

Manchin said Kirk, a longtime naval reservist who plans to retire from the service soon, pushed for a provision that would have allowed veterans to contest their placement in a national instant criminal background check system, a computer database which prohibits some from purchasing firearms because of mental health history or criminal records.

In a video released Wednesday, Kirk described that provision as "just and honorable given their (veterans') service to the country."

But Manchin also said Kirk held steadfast for closing all loopholes at gun shows.

Kirk, in Chicago earlier this month, met with Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who told him that 40 percent of guns picked up by the Chicago Police were purchased at a gun show without a background check.

Along with New York Democratic Kirsten Gillibrand, Kirk also introducing legislation that would make gun trafficking a federal crime. He was the lone Republican senator Wednesday to vote for an assault weapons ban.

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