Illinois assault weapons ban approved by Illinois House

Six months after the massacre at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, the Illinois House on Friday announced a measure that would immediately ban the sale of assault weapons in the state and bar the sale of large-capacity 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 that would also ban “rapid-fire devices” that turn weapons that fire one shot per trigger pull into fully automatic weapons. It still has to clear the Illinois Senate.

“This legislation will primarily prohibit new sales of assault weapons in the state of Illinois. That’s what the people of this state called for. And that’s what it will deliver,” said Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch during the debate. “These are weapons that belong on the battlefield, Not in parades celebrating the independence of our country 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.

Lead sponsor state Rep. Bob Morgan, Deerfield, who was at the shooting parade with his family, recounted some of the horrific encounter — the images of a bloodied toddler he saw being dragged away and the sounds of gunfire he heard. Morgan said he had a hard 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 will do everything I can, everything I can to make sure that none of us, none of you, none of your communities go through what we went through,” Morgan said at the end of an almost two-hour hearing. “And yet I failed. Because within three days after the Fourth of July, there were more shooting deaths across the state of Illinois than that day on the Fourth of July in Highland Park. So I failed. I literally carried it on my shoulders until this moment, as we stand here now.”

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

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

“I’m tired. I’m sick of the shootings everywhere in this country 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 crime. We’re talking about urban gun crime. We’re talking about mental health issues. And those are two things we’re not fighting,” said state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville. “We’re going after legal gun owners who haven’t done anything wrong. Ninety-nine point nine percent — 99.999, right — haven’t done anything wrong, and we’re going after those people, and I think that’s wrong. We’re drawing on straws. I agree with you about The problem. But your solution goes to the wrong people.”

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

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

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The sponsors added language that would exempt active-duty law enforcement officers and retired law enforcement officers who served in law enforcement for more than 10 years from many of the firearm purchase restrictions. Retired officers will not be exempt from the ban on high-capacity magazines.

Language that would have raised eligibility for a state firearms owner’s identification card for most Illinois residents to 21 was not included in the measure that cleared the House. That language was included when House Democrats first introduced the bill on Dec. 1. And the sponsors also added language that would allow gun manufacturers to continue making weapons that can be sold in states where their sale is still legal.

Other lawmakers called on the 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 said it will try to overturn the law if it passes and will also consider litigation over what it calls a “constitutionally flawed law.”

“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 on the books,” Executive Director Richard Pearson said in a statement.

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

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After the Highland Park shooting, Democratic House lawmakers began meeting in a working group to try to find legislative solutions to prevent another mass shooting tragedy. Police say shooting suspect Robert Karimo 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 injunctions from six months to a year. It would also give the state attorney’s office standing to assist in filing such an order. No one sought such a restraining order against Karimo, even though Highland Park police were called to the family’s home in April 2019 and described Karimo in their reports as having suicidal thoughts, threatening to kill his family, “kill them all.”

Ashley Beasley, who was at the Highland Park shooting and escaped injury alongside her 6-year-old son, spoke to the House Executive Committee and said her son is undergoing trauma counseling because of the shooting.

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


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