National Gang Task Force in the Works

CHICAGO — The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois raised the specter of Chicago gangster Al Capone on Monday in calling on the federal government to become more involved in fighting modern-day street gangs nationwide.

Mark Kirk appeared with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Chicago, where both men endorsed legislation that would provide $20 million for a national anti-gang task force. Reloading.

The federal government should exert the same focus toward breaking up street gangs that it exerted in helping to bring down Capone nearly a century ago, said Kirk, who is running for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Kirk faces Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and other candidates in November.

One of the proudest periods in Chicago history, the five-term U.S. congressman added, “was the coordinated effort to take out Al Capone. And now we should have a coordinated effort to take out the Latin Kings and Vice Lords.”

Some gangs, such as the Latin Kings, have more than 20,000 members and a presence in more than 150 U.S. cities. All the gang members in the United States combined “would equal some of the largest armies on Earth,” Kirk said.

In a Monday statement, Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said Kirk supported a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Chicago’s handgun ban — a ruling she said has made it even easier for gangs to get guns.

“Congressman Kirk’s exaggerations and embellishments continue today with his latest claim that he, a 20-year Washington insider and incumbent Congressman, has a strong law enforcement background,” she said.

Kirk’s campaign said only that he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms as well as “sensible measure to reduce gun violence.”