Illinois lawmakers push for assault weapons ban

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

Automatic rifles on display at a gun show. (Photo by Cory Doctorow)

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, efforts are underway to make sure a similar incident does not occur here.

State House Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) has introduced legislation that would make it illegal to deliver, sell or purchase assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, .50-caliber rifles or .50-caliber cartridges in Illinois.

“It’s all about saving lives,” Moylan said about pursuing the legislation.

He said he is reaching across the aisles for support and one Republican lawmaker, Steven Andersson of Geneva, has already signed on as a co-sponsor.

Moylan said the revelation that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had booked rooms at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago overlooking August’s Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park is cause for action on the state level.

“It is extremely important that we address this,” Moylan said. “(Lollapalooza) was a concert attended by President Barack Obama’s two daughters, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and thousands of people.”

Moylan said past inabilities to pass gun-control legislation in Illinois have no bearing on this effort.

“Six months ago, things were different,” Moylan said. “How are Republicans going to vote against this bill after what has happened? I am going to reach out to the governor to be part of this bill. He needs to sponsor it to protect our citizens.”

Should Moylan’s statewide ban not be enacted, state Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) is championing an effort for communities to at least have the option to enact their own assault-weapons ban.

Morrison said that she will attempt to bring her legislation, which had been stalled last winter, back up in the fall veto session giving towns the opportunity to create their own assault weapon ban as they saw fit.

Municipalities in Illinois had the ability to ban assault weapons until 2013 when the law allowing Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons was passed. State lawmakers did not include an assault-weapon ban in the concealed carry law, but in a compromise move gave municipalities 10 days after the bill’s passage to institute their own ban if they saw fit to do so.

Twelve Illinois communities, including Chicago, opted to ban possession of assault weapons in their communities during that 10-day window, joining Cook County which had already banned the weapons. Five communities banned the storage or transportation of the weapons within their borders; and one town, Niles, banned the sales of the weapons and the transferring of ownership in its borders.

Morrison believes that her legislation, which had been placed on session sine die – held for an indefinite period – in January should be brought to light.

‘Proven template’

“It is time for it to be heard and discussed,” Morrison said. “I think now is the time for communities to be able to consider this. Highland Park passed legislation that went all the way to the Supreme Court. That gives other communities a proven template.”

Highland Park Mayor Nancy R. Rotering said there has been strong support for the city position on assault weapons from the vast majority of her residents. She said there have been a few incidents since 2013 when people possessed the banned weapons and were threatening to take their own lives with them, and the guns were taken away.

“The ban has done what is was intended to do,” Rotering said. “Weapons of mass destruction have no place in Highland Park.”

Thanks to pro bono legal work from the Brady Campaign and Perkins Coie of Chicago, the city only paid out $89,000 in costs for the challenge of the city’s assault weapon ban which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

She said people are now looking to state and federal leaders to do something to make them feel safer and give them a sense of calm.

“I think in the wake of a tragedy like Las Vegas there is hopelessness and frustration,” said Rotering, who is running for Illinois attorney general. “People look to leadership to take action and try to mitigate the situation. Assault weapons don’t belong in civilian hands. We regularly talk and give condolences in these situations but nothing happens.”

Morrison said tragedies like the Las Vegas massacre do have a way of magnifying issues and believes the Illinois legislature needs to act on residents’ behalf.

She said her legislation is open-ended, allowing communities to pass an assault weapons ban anytime their elected officials saw fit, not just in a narrow window liked occurred with passage of the conceal carry law.

: U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) (right) talks last week at a gun violence forum in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood seated next to Chicago Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward). After the forum, Davis said, “Getting assault weapons banned is job No. 1.” (Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

“I hope that every community and individual has watched the news and is aware and ready to take some type of action,” Morrison said. “I hope we can get something done. There is a lot of concern right now.”

Morrison also plans to introduce legislation to ban “bump stocks,” attachments for semiautomatic rifles that drastically increase the number of bullets able to be fired from a weapon.

The state senator said she would like to see federal lawmakers pass something on their level that would stop a rifle trigger from being converted to an automatic weapon, but is not hopeful that will happen anytime soon.

‘Woefully slow’

“The federal government has been talking about banning the sale of those, but Congress is woefully slow and inept at enacting such legislation,” Morrison said. “That is why we are looking at it on the state level.”

The lawmaker said that we, as a country, can’t continue to bury our head in the sand on the issue.

“We cannot continue to act as though we don’t have a serious problem with gun violence in this country,” Morrison said. “Access to mental health care is a component to this issue that we also need to address, but the ease at which firearms and attachments that cause mass carnage are available is unacceptable and it is time we act.”

Laura Cutilletta, legal director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said it is hard to predict if the Las Vegas massacre will be the event that gets key gun legislation passed.

“We’ve definitely seen efforts before, like after Newtown (Conn., where 20 students and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012),” Cutilletta said. “With the current make-up of the Congress it is far less likely to pass (than after Sandy Hook when Democrats controlled the Senate).”

The legal director of the San Francisco-based organization said that an assault-weapons ban is just one item on a long list of gun-related laws needed to improve safety in this country.

Only seven states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – have assault-weapons ban in place. Florida is slated to consider such a ban.

Cutilletta said getting legislation passed on the state or federal level is a tough-go these days.

“It is difficult because the gun lobby is trying to bully legislators from doing the right thing,” Cutilletta said.

She said the public sentiment for gun-control legislation continues to grow and that could bring changes in federal and state voting.

“Since Newtown, more and more people are willing to stand up, and more resources are being devoted to the effort,” Cutilletta said. “The public is more aware than ever before of the issue.”

Cutilletta advised residents wanting to get involved to call their elected officials on the state and federal levels.

“Make your voice heard any way you can,” she said.

Not for citizens

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) said there is no reason for assault weapons to be in the hands of anyone but military personnel and will fight to accomplish that in Congress.

“If the shootings in Las Vegas demonstrate anything is that assault weapons should not be in the hands of individuals,” Davis said after speaking at a community forum in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood about gun violence.

He said he will go to both congressional chambers to try to get assault weapons banned on a federal level.

He said lawmakers must put politics aside and do what is best for the American citizens.

“Getting assault weapons banned is job No. 1,” Davis said.

When Chicago passed its assault-weapons ban in 2013, Mayor Emanuel was adamant about getting the weapons off of city streets.

“Weapons that are designed for the battlefield have no place on the streets of Chicago,” Emanuel said at that time. “By strengthening our ordinance, we will have a clear, comprehensive and enforceable law that continues to prevent dangerous weapons from threatening the safety of our residents. Chicago will continue to lead the way in enacting the toughest gun control measures possible while still respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”





— Illinois lawmakers push for assault weapons ban —-