Illinois Assault Weapons Ban Approved by the Illinois House
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Six months after the July 4th Parade massacre in Highland Park, the Illinois House on Friday approved a measure immediately banning the state from selling assault weapons and banning the sale of large-capacity magazines containing more than 12 rounds, would prevent.
After a lengthy debate that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning, the House voted 64 to 43 to pass the measure, which would also ban “rapid-firing devices,” which convert firearms that fire one shot per trigger into fully automatic ones would transform weapons. It has yet to clear the Illinois Senate.
“Most importantly, this legislation will ban new sales of assault weapons in the state of Illinois. That’s what the people in this state demanded. And that’s what it’s going to deliver,” Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said during the debate. “These are weapons that belong on a battlefield, not in parades celebrating our country’s independence, or in parks or schools.”
Gov. JB Pritzker said he would support passing an assault weapons ban and joined Democrats on the House floor throughout the debate.
The state’s main sponsor, Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, who was at the shooting parade with his family, recounted some of the terrifying encounters — the images of a bloodied toddler he saw being dragged away and the sounds of gunfire he heard . Morgan said he had a tough time at 10:14 a.m. Wednesday, around the time the gunshots were fired six months earlier.
“This is not a one-off situation. And I left that day thinking I’m going to do everything I can, whatever is in my power to make sure none of us, none of you, none of your communities go through what we went through.” said Morgan at the end of a nearly two-hour debate. “And yet I failed. Because within three days of July 4th there was more gunfighting across the state of Illinois than there was on that July 4th day in Highland Park. So I failed. I’ve literally carried that on my shoulders up to this moment as we stand here now.”
Outgoing Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, who has been a vocal supporter of an assault weapons ban for years, supported the measure.
“I’m tired. I’m disgusted by the shootings all over this state with these types of guns,” Durkin said.
But other Republicans questioned whether the measure would pass constitutional scrutiny, saying it would criminalize lawful gun owners.
“We’re talking about gun crime. We’re talking about urban gun crime. We’re talking about mental health issues. And those are two things that we’re not fighting here,” said State Assemblyman CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville. “We go after legal gun owners who have done nothing wrong. Ninety-nine point nine percent — 99.999, right — didn’t do anything wrong, and we go after those individuals, and I think it’s wrong. We’re pulling at straws. I agree with you on the problem. But your solution is going to the wrong people.”
Those who already own assault weapons could legally keep their firearms by registering them with the Illinois State Police within 300 days of the law’s enactment. The aim of the law is to curb future sales.
The sponsors added wording that would exempt active-duty law enforcement and retirees who have served in law enforcement over 10 years from restrictions on firearm purchases. Retired officials are not exempt from the ban on high-capacity magazines.
Language that would have increased eligibility for a state firearms owner’s ID card to 21 for most Illinois residents was not included in the measure that cleared the home. That language was picked up when House Democrats originally tabled the bill on Dec. 1. And sponsors also added language that would allow gun manufacturers to continue making firearms that can be sold in states where their sale is still legal.
Other lawmakers have urged bill sponsors to reduce penalties for those caught with high-capacity magazines — and reduce a second offense to a $1,000 fine instead of a felony charge. Criminal justice advocates have argued the new restrictions could disproportionately hit black and brown communities.
Lawmakers returned to Springfield Wednesday for the start of a lame duck session. The Illinois House held three committee hearings in Chicago in December on the controversial measure, which involved more than 12 hours of testimony from gun attorneys, gun opponents and crime victims.
After the Highland Park shooting, lawmakers in the Democratic House of Representatives began meeting in a working group to try to find legislative solutions to prevent another mass shooting tragedy. Police say shooting suspect Robert Crimo III used a Smith & Wesson M&P15, an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle whose initials M&P stand for “military and police,” to kill seven people and injure 48 others .
The legislation would also extend the duration of such firearm restraining orders from six months to one year. It would also give prosecutors the power to assist in filing such an order. No one had applied for such a restraining order against Crimo, although Highland Park Police were called to the family home in April 2019 and their reports described Crimo as having suicidal thoughts that threatened to kill his family “kill everyone.”
Ashley Beasley, who was at the Highland Park shooting and escaped injury with her 6-year-old son, was speaking before the House Executive Committee and said her son had been in trauma counseling about the shooting.
“I fully support people’s right to own guns. I am a former gun owner. I have a FOID card. I don’t believe in taking things from people,” Beasley said. “But I know what it feels like to run from an AR-15. I know what it’s like to run into a crowd running from an AR-15. And I know what it’s like to live with a kid who’s trying to understand and can only process it by holding his head and saying there’s too much thinking and vomiting all over the place and wetting the bed. And that’s not normal.”
Gun control groups also formed a nonprofit group called “Protect Illinois Communities,” which helped rally support through television ads, mailings, and press conferences.