Illinois Assault Weapons Ban Approved by Illinois House

Six months after Highland Park Fourth of July Parade Massacre, The Illinois House on Friday approved a measure that would immediately ban the sale of assault weapons in the state and prevent the sale of high volume magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.

After a lengthy debate that lasted into the early hours of Friday, the House of Representatives voted 64-43 to pass the measure, which would also ban “rapid-fire devices,” which turn firearms that fire one shot per pull of the trigger into fully automatic weapons. Still to be cleared by the Illinois Senate.

“This legislation would most importantly prohibit the new sale of firearms in the state of Illinois. This is what the people of this country are calling for. 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 the battlefield, not in parades celebrating our country’s independence, or in parks, or in schools.”

Gov. JB Pritzker said he would support passing an assault weapons ban and joined Democrats on the floor throughout the debate.

Lead sponsor Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, who was at the parade shooting with his family, recounted some of the horrific encounter — the images of a bloodied toddler he saw being dragged and the sounds of gunfire he heard. Morgan said he had a rough time at 10:14 a.m. Wednesday, the exact time the shots rang out six months earlier.

“This is not a unique situation. And I left that day thinking that I’m going to do whatever I can, whatever I can to make sure that 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. “Yet I failed. Because within three days of the Fourth of July, there were more gun deaths in the entire state of Illinois than there were that Fourth of July in Highland Park. So I failed. I literally carry this on my shoulders to this moment as we stand here right now.”

The Illinois Senate plans to return to session on Sunday, but it’s unclear when lawmakers will vote on the measure. John Patterson, a spokesman for Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, said senators are giving the proposal “thorough review and careful evaluation.”

Outgoing Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, who has been a vocal supporter of the assault weapons ban for years, spoke in support of the measure.

“I’m tired. I’m sick of shootings all over this state with these types of weapons,” Durkin said.

But other Republicans questioned whether the measure would pass constitutional muster and said it would criminalize legal gun owners.

“We’re talking about gun crimes. We’re talking urban gun crime. We’re talking about mental health issues. And those are two things we’re not fighting in this,” said state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville. “We are going after lawful gun owners who have done nothing wrong. Ninety-nine percent and nine percent — 99,999, right — have done nothing wrong, and we’re going after these people, and I think it’s wrong. We are drawing straws. I agree with you on the issue. But your solution is targeting the wrong people.

Those who already own combat weapons will be able to legally keep their firearms by registering them with the Illinois State Police within 300 days of the law taking effect. The purpose of the legislation is to stop future sales.

Lawmakers also targeted “switches” that turn handguns into illegal machine guns that can fire 20 rounds in about a second. An investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ and NPR last year found The number of switch-equipped guns and extended magazines seized by Chicago police has increased over the past few years, making the city a hot spot for what federal authorities said is a national problem.

Sponsors added language that exempts law enforcement officers and retirees who have served in law enforcement for more than 10 years from many of the restrictions on purchasing firearms. Retired officers will not be exempt from the ban on high-capacity magazines.

Text that would have raised eligibility for a state firearms identification card for most Illinois residents to 21 was not included in the measure that approved the House. This language was included when House Democrats originally introduced the bill on Dec. 1. And the 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 urged the bill’s sponsors to reduce the penalties for those caught with high-capacity magazines — reducing a second offense to a $1,000 fine instead of a felony charge. Criminal justice advocates argued that the new restrictions could disproportionately affect black and brown communities.

The Illinois State Rifle Association has said it will seek to overturn the law if it passes and will also consider litigation over what it calls a “constitutionally flawed bill.”

“The Illinois General Assembly is working to pass a bill that law-abiding gun owners across the state will fear but criminals will ignore, as they already do with the dozens of laws already in place,” said Executive Director Richard Pearson in statement.

Lawmakers returned to Springfield on Wednesday for the start of the lame-duck session. The Illinois House held three committee hearings in December in Chicago on the controversial measure, which included more than 12 hours of testimony from gun rights advocates, anti-gun advocates and crime victims.

After the Highland Park shooting, Democratic House lawmakers began meeting in a task force to try to come up with 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 wound 48 others.

The legislation would also extend the duration of such firearms detention orders from six months to one year. It would also entitle state attorneys to assist in filing such an order. No one has sought such a restraining order against Crimo, although Highland Park police were called to the family’s home in April 2019, describing Crimo in their reports as having suicidal thoughts, threatening to kill his family, to “kill everybody.”

Ashley Beasley, who was involved in the Highland Park shooting and escaped injury along with her 6-year-old son, spoke before the House Executive Committee, saying her son was undergoing trauma counseling because of the shooting.

“I fully support people’s rights to own guns. I am a former gun owner. I have a FOID card. I don’t believe in taking things away from people,” Beasley said. “But I know what it feels like to run away from an AR-15. I know what it’s like to run into a crowd of people running away from AR-15s. And I know what it’s like to live with a child who is trying to figure it out and can only process it by holding his head and saying he has too many thoughts and throwing up everywhere and wetting the bed. And that’s not normal.”

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