Illinois Democrats say potential assault weapon ban will keep communities safe
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois state lawmakers could vote on a plan to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines during the lame-duck session next month. The legislation has 26 co-sponsors as of Thursday, and Democrats hope to see some of their Republican colleagues support the plan to prevent more gun violence.
The House Firearm Safety & Reform Working Group has met every week since August to draft the proposal. Rep. Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia) believes they have a strong policy.
House and Senate Democrats have discussed the possibility of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for several years. Those plans never reached fruition, but the idea is gaining more attention following the Highland Park mass shooting on the Fourth of July that killed seven people and left 48 others wounded.
“I have the freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Hirschauer said. “You know, we have the freedom to go to the grocery store, to a parade, to drop our children off at school without fear of being shot.”
Hirschauer started to push for an assault weapon ban well before she became a state lawmaker. Like many political leaders, Hirschauer was inspired to run for office after calling for change as an advocate. Hirschauer was the founding member of the Kane and Kendall County chapter of Moms Demand Action.
She explained that gun control advocates and gun owners in her district support the idea of an assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban. The proposal could make it unlawful to manufacture, deliver, sell and purchase an assault weapon, assault weapon attachment, .50 caliber rifle, or .50 caliber cartridge.
House Bill 5855 could also prevent people under 21 from getting access to FOID cards unless they serve in the military or Illinois National Guard. Young people would still be allowed to hunt under the legislation, but they must be with an adult over 21 who holds a FOID card.
The Illinois State Rifle Association said this plan would peel back the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding citizens.
“They’re punishing 2.5 million people for the acts of a few,” said ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. “So, that’s the problem with all of these laws. The 2.5 million people didn’t do anything yesterday, or the day before, or last month. Yet, they’re punishing all the firearm owners.”
The proposal would grandfather in anyone who currently owns an assault weapon in Illinois. People would have 300 days to register their firearms and pay a $25 fee to the Illinois State Police after the bill is signed into law. Pearson said registration of any firearm usually leads to confiscating those guns. He stressed that his organization is ready to challenge the legislation in court.
The proposed ban would not apply to law enforcement, members of the armed forces, the Illinois National Guard, or armed security officers at nuclear energy, storage, weapons or development sites.
“We’ve been having conversations with gun owners. We’ve been having conversations with communities that are deeply impacted by gun violence and we’re bringing all of those voices to the table,” Hirschauer said. “And I think that’s why we’re seeing traction now.”
Gov. JB Pritzker knows that gun lobby groups will want to slow the implementation process and end the ban if they can. Yet, Pritzker said Thursday that he has faith in the proposal filed by Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) who survived the Highland Park shooting.
“I believe that the proposal that’s been made has been vetted. Bob Morgan is an attorney,” Pritzker said. “And I believe that this is a constitutional proposal.”
Meanwhile, gun shop owners like Dan Cooley of The Bullet Trap in Macon said the plan will decrease sales as these guns are very popular. Cooley is also concerned that sponsors expanded the definition of assault weapons to include mini shotguns and some handguns.
“If their intent was to stop crime, why are they worried about those folks to begin with? If they’ve already got the firearm and not committed crimes with it, how is a $25 fee and registering it going to change that,” Cooley asked. “In all likelihood, it’s not.”
Sponsors also note that the bill language allows people to petition for a one-year firearm restraining order rather than the current 6-month orders. Hirschauer said other states have seen success with one-year firearm restraining orders included in their red flag laws. House Bill 5855 also empowers state attorneys to assist victims in filing firearm restraining orders.
“I think that’s important because it can be confusing and overwhelming when you really want to act in the best interest of your family member to keep everyone safe,” Hirschauer said. “So, I think that these are some positive positions that we are taking in this legislation.”
The legislation requires the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation to conduct investigations of human trafficking, illegal drug trafficking, and illegal firearm trafficking. The Division of Criminal Investigation would then provide statewide coordination and strategies for firearm-related intelligence, firearms trafficking interdiction, and investigations.
The House Judiciary Criminal Committee will hold a subject matter hearing about this proposal on Monday. Pearson said his organization will not participate in the negotiating process for the legislation. He argues that the Democratic plan isn’t aimed at criminals with assault weapons.
“It’s actually aimed at gun owners like myself and other law-abiding gun owners because they don’t want us to have these firearms,” Pearson said. “Every crime is just an excuse to take guns away from law-abiding gun owners.”
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