JAN 06, 2023
House passes ‘assault weapon’ ban, sending bill to Senate after making some revisions; Durkin votes ‘yes’
House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) presents a bill to ban “assault weapons” in Illinois with Gov. JB Pritzker seated next to him on the House floor. [Blue Room Stream]
The Illinois House took a historic step Friday morning passing a bill that would make Illinois the ninth state to ban “assault weapons.” The bill’s passage came nearly six months to the day since a gunman killed seven people at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade and injured dozens of others with a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle and 30-round clips.
The bill passed the House after midnight Friday morning 64-43. The proposal was mostly unchanged from the version that was heard in three subject matter hearings last month though some changes were made to address concerns raised by stakeholders who testified at the hearings.
The latest version of the bill (SB2226) no longer raises the age for obtaining a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card to 21 and keeps the minimum age at 18. It also raises the number of rounds a magazine can have to 12 — up from 10 in the original bill after gun rights advocates told lawmakers that change would outlaw most magazines.
Some advocates told lawmakers they supported banning “assault weapons,” but were concerned the bill created enhanced penalties for offenders. The new version makes possession of illegal magazines a petty offense subject to a $1,000 fine for the first time as opposed to a Class 3 felony in the original bill.
Provisions of the original proposal are preserved in the latest version as the bill still bans semi-automatic weapons, devices that can make a weapon fire automatically, limits the size of magazines and ammunition to .50 caliber, and boosts firearm restraining orders to one year instead of six months. People who currently own a gun defined as an “assault weapon” will have to register it with the Illinois State Police (ISP) within 180 to 300 days after the bill takes effect. ISP is responsible for enforcing the legislation.
Another amendment added late Thursday allows Illinois gun manufactures to continue to make semi-automatic weapons if they sell the weapons outside the state.
“If this bill will become law, there will be no removal of these weapons from people who already own them,” House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside), the lead sponsor of the latest version of the bill, told the House Executive Committee.
“These are weapons that belong on the battlefield, not parades celebrating our country’s independence, not at parks, our schools, our churches,” Welch said in floor debate with Gov. JB Pritzker seated next to him in a rare appearance on the floor.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who hinted last year he would consider supporting an “assault weapons” ban, voted in favor of the legislation. He was the only Republican voting in favor.
“If my memory is correct, the Highland Park parade-goers were not advised to wear Kevlar helmets, vets, nor are the citizens in Chicago on the West Side and the South Side advised to gear up,” Durkin said, closing by saying he would cast a vote to say, “enough is enough.”
The changes did not soften opponents who still argued the bill criminalizes people for owning semi-automatic shotguns used for hunting rifles.
“Part of me wants you to pass this bill,” said Illinois State Rifle Association lobbyist Ed Sullivan, a former Republican lawmaker from Mundelein. “From what I read, it’s less constitutional than it was before. It takes away more rights than it did before, makes it easier to strike down.”
Rep. CD Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) doubted many gun owners would follow through with registering their “assault weapons.”
“These are people that will never hurt another person, they will never take a gun out into the public,” Davidsmeyer said in committee.
Morgan told reporters following committee he believes the law has the teeth to gain compliance from gun owners, noting gun owners routinely go through renewal processes with their FOID cards and the law creates serious penalties for lying.
Morgan also said he agreed to keep the minimum age at 18 for a FOID card because of some concerns within the caucus. He noted state law already prevents people under 21 from buying handguns. If the assault weapons ban passes, 18-20-year-olds would be limited to purchasing hunting weapons.
Welch told a personal story about his encounters with gun violence to drive home the importance of the legislation for lawmakers. In 1985, his aunt was gunned down in Chicago and the shooter was never found. Welch’s parents took in his aunt’s children, who became Welch’s sisters.
“Gun violence has changed too many families in this state,” Welch said.
During the floor debate, other Republicans argued the bill doesn’t address the core of gun violence in Illinois which stems from handguns more often that semi-automatic rifles. They also argued laws currently on the books must be enforced.
“This will make criminals out of law-abiding citizens; this will not stop gun violence in Illinois… this bill does not address the real issues and the solutions to those issues… the weapon is not the issue. It’s who is wielding the weapon,” Minority Leader-elect Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) said.
Morgan closed the debate thanking his colleagues for their support after the Highland Park shooting. He retold the story of his experience at the parade that day.
“I left that day thinking I will do whatever I can to make sure none of us... go through what we went through. And yet I failed because within three days of the Fourth of July shooting, there were more gun deaths,” Morgan said.
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