Illinois law enforcement, gun lobby groups testify during hearing on assault weapon ban

Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 5:47 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois could become the ninth state to ban assault weapons next month. State lawmakers held their third and final subject matter hearing of 2022 on Tuesday.

Democratic sponsors and advocates can’t wait to have a ban in place, but gun owners said the proposed ban will not stop criminals from causing future gun violence.

Law enforcement leaders from Cook County and Chicago said lawmakers need to act quickly to get assault weapons and extended magazines off the streets. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart brought ammunition magazines to the Michael Bilandic Building in Chicago, so members of the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee could understand what law enforcement is frequently confiscating.

“Innocent people all around are gonna get slaughtered. That’s what’s gonna happen,” Dart said. “These things are designed for that. There is no sane person who is going to sit there and say, ‘In our society, we should have these.’”

Under the proposal, Illinois State Police would be responsible for investigations of illegal firearm trafficking and providing statewide coordination for firearm-related intelligence and firearm trafficking interdiction. ISP would also have to handle the registration of guns for people who own assault weapons before the ban takes effect. People who currently own assault-style firearms 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.

ISP Director Brendan Kelly noted that his agency will need additional funding for new software and additional personnel to effectively fulfill that job.

“Any time there’s gonna be this type of implementation, we will need some language to give us some flexibility for procurement, so we can move quickly, so we can get the resources we need in terms of the technology, but also potentially for the personnel,” Kelly said.

Meanwhile, gun lobby organizations said they are not willing to negotiate with sponsors of the Protect Illinois Communities Act. Most people know that Democratic lawmakers have enough support for the plan and Gov. JB Pritzker plans to sign it into law.

“The gun owners are tired of being blamed for every madman, every criminal, and every other depraved act that 2.5 million gun owners didn’t do,” said former NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde.

Former NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde speaks during a subject matter hearing about a proposed...
Former NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde speaks during a subject matter hearing about a proposed assault weapon ban on Dec. 20, 2022.(Mike Miletich)

The Illinois State Rifle Association and National Rifle Association stressed that lawmakers will see them in court if House Bill 5855 becomes law. However, the organization Everytown for Gun Safety said this plan will help keep assault-style guns out of communities.

“Drivers of gun violence in Illinois are complex and multi-faceted,” said Alison Shih, legal counsel for Everytown. “But this bill represents a holistic approach to solving the crisis of gun violence in our state through prevention, intervention, and accountability.”

The proposal will also rescind the current law that allows people under 21 to obtain FOID cards with parental consent. NRA Illinois lobbyist John Weber said any proposal banning 18 to 20-year-olds from having a FOID card will violate the Second Amendment. Still, some feel there is no moral argument to provide young people with these weapons of war when children’s brains are not fully developed.

”There is no rational basis or moral argument to turn a blind eye to the manufacture and distribution of switches and ghost guns which are designed to kill people faster than a regular firearm and without being traced,” said Chicago Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Elena Gottreich.

Retiring Secretary of State Jesse White also announced his support for the proposed ban Tuesday morning. White said he respects the rights of responsible gun owners, but he feels guns designed to kill many people are falling into the wrong hands far too often.

“I am proud to stand with Illinois lawmakers as they work to pass life-saving gun safety legislation to protect our communities. As a veteran, I am acutely aware that our streets should not be flooded with weapons appropriate for a warzone,” White said. “I urge legislators to come together and pass much-needed reforms.”

White argued that the lives of Illinoisans depend on the proposal becoming law. Even so, former state representative and ISRA lobbyist Ed Sullivan said the proposal will keep alive systemic racism as it applies to the Second Amendment.

“I can take my firearms, my mags. I can go across the border. I have the means,” Sullivan said. “What about the people that don’t? You’re just going to criminalize them? There’s over 70 counties in Illinois that are Second Amendment sanctuary counties. Those folks aren’t going to get arrested. So, who do you think is going to get charged with a Class 2 felony?”

Democratic lawmakers said there will be more hearings about the bill during the lame-duck session starting Jan. 4.

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