by Dan Petrella, Chicago Tribune
SPRINGFIELD — Democrats in the Illinois House on Thursday unveiled a proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and eliminate the ability for most people under 21 to obtain a gun permit in the state.
The legislation, filed on the final legislative session day of 2022, is a response to the mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, where seven people were killed and dozens of others injured by a shooter using an assault-style rifle and high-capacity magazines.
The alleged shooter, Robert Crimo III, obtained a firearm owner’s identification card at the age of 19 with parental consent, which is allowed under current state law.
The House bill was filed by Democratic state Rep. Bob Morgan of Deerfield, who was marching in the parade when the shooting occurred.
“I’ve spent months meeting with victims, policy experts, community leaders and more,” Morgan, who led a group of House Democrats in putting together the proposal, wrote in a Twitter post Thursday. “Thanks to their feedback and perspectives, I’m confident that this comprehensive approach gets at the root of the gun violence epidemic and will save lives.”
Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Springfield until after Jan. 1, but with the new year comes a lower vote threshold for passing legislation that takes immediate effect. Before the new year, it would take three-fifths majorities in each chamber, but after Jan. 1 it takes only a simple majority.
It’s unclear if the current crop of lawmakers will take up the measure in early January or whether it will be put off until after the new legislature is seated Jan. 11, when House Democrats will see their ranks grow from 73 members to at least 78 in the 118-seat chamber.
While Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democrats have pushed for an assault weapons ban since the Highland Park shooting, gun control measures historically have failed to gain support among some downstate members of the legislature’s majority party.
Such measures can also be expected to be met by legal challenges. In Naperville, for example, the City Council in August passed a ban on weapons similar to the one used in the Highland Park shooting. The National Foundation for Gun Rights, a legal wing of the National Association for Gun Rights, sued and and is seeking a court order to prevent the ban from taking effect Jan. 1.
Morgan’s proposal aligns with some recommendations in a 16-page report released Thursday by experts at Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, including barring gun permits for those younger than 21, banning large-capacity magazines and strengthening the state’s red flag law.
Morgan’s proposal would allow people under 21 to obtain a FOID card only if they are active-duty members of the U.S. military or the Illinois National Guard.
The measure also seeks to strengthen the state’s firearm restraining order law by extending the period someone can be barred from possessing a gun from six months to a year and by giving local prosecutors a greater role in the process. The details of the Highland Park shooting raised questions about whether the law could have been used to keep the alleged shooter from purchasing the weapon used in the attack.
An initial hearing on the proposal has been scheduled for Dec. 9 in Chicago.
Kathleen Sances of the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee said members of the group “look forward to reviewing the bill and continuing to work in support of needed gun safety solutions.”
“In the absence of a federal ban (on assault weapons), Illinois is long overdue for a statewide ban on weapons that continue to kill so many, not only in Chicago or Highland Park, but in Crest Hill, Decatur, East Saint Louis, Elgin, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, Romeoville, Wheeling, and Yorkville,” Sances said in a statement. “We don’t have to live like this, and we certainly don’t have to watch our neighbors die senselessly.”
The Illinois State Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment on Morgan’s proposal, but in response to the Johns Hopkins report, the group’s executive director, Richard Pearson, said he opposes barring people under 21 from getting FOID cards.
“If you can go die for country, sign contracts and get married, you should be able to get a FOID card,” Pearson said.