Sep 06, 2023
Illinois bans semiautomatic weapons; critics say they'll sue
Illinois has banned the sale or possession of semiautomatic weapons as Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation spurred largely by the killing of seven people at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago
Illinois has banned the sale or possession of semiautomatic weapons as Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation spurred largely by the killing of seven people at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.
Pritzker acted Tuesday after the state House voted 68 to 41 to make Illinois the nation’s ninth state, along with the District of Columbia, to prohibit the sale or possession of semiautomatic weapons. The vote approved a plan that the Senate passed Monday night.
Pritzker, who was sworn in for a second term Monday, celebrated the culmination of what he described as a four-year struggle against “the powerful forces” of gun advocacy groups.
“We will keep fighting — bill by bill, vote by vote, and protest by protest — to ensure that future generations only hear about massacres like Highland Park, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde in their textbooks,” Pritzker said in a statement.
In his inaugural address Monday, the Democrat decried not only the Highland Park mass shooting last year that killed seven people and injured 30, but also Chicago’s frequent gun violence, notably the shooting that killed two 16-year-olds and injured two others last month at a high school on the city’s West Side.
Critics argue that the governor’s signature will trigger court challenges and ultimately result in the overturning of the law as a violation of the 2nd Amendment.
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Ed Sullivan, a lobbyist for the Illinois State Rifle Assn., said legal action would be swift. Senate President Don Harmon closed debate on Senate action Monday night by declaring to critics: “See you in court.” The group responded: “Challenge accepted.”
State Republicans, whose 45 seats dropped by five with a new General Assembly taking over Wednesday, lashed out angrily during debate. Rep. Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City claimed Democrats “despise our founders” and said Republicans “will not comply.”
“A government willing to defy our Constitution is a government that is completely out of control,” Wilhour said.
The legislation bans dozens of specific brands or types of rifles and handguns, .50-caliber guns, attachments and rapid-firing devices. No rifle will be allowed to accommodate more than 10 rounds, with a 15-round limit for handguns.
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Those who already own such guns will have to register them with the Illinois State Police. The new law allows merchants to sell or return current stock, and Illinois-based manufacturers can sell their wares outside Illinois or to law enforcement.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch introduced his mother, Willie Mae Welch, and told how, as a teenager in 1985, his mother’s sister was fatally shot while sitting in a car outside her church. She had three young daughters. Welch’s parents, despite having three boys of their own, took them in. No assailant was ever caught.
“It’s time that we protect Illinois communities,” said Welch, a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Hillside. “It’s time that we protect Illinois families. ... Let’s not lose any more brothers and sisters, children to gun violence.”
The court ruled that a California ban on the sale of semiautomatic rifles to adults younger than 21 was unconstitutional.
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Eight states and the District of Columbia currently have bans on semiautomatic weapons, according to Tanya Schardt, who works in favor of such legislation for the Brady Campaign. They differ in their definitions of semiautomatic weapons, but generally they ban 10-round clips for long guns and handguns. The bans have survived constitutional challenges in scores of courts, she said.
Five states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York — require registration of guns purchased before the law’s passage, Schardt said. The other three states with bans are Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts.
Registration often angers gun owners, but most tolerate the collection of information, Schardt said.
The legislation also provides protection. If police stop a car driven by a semiautomatic gun owner, for example, they can instantly check to ensure it’s legally owned. And it allows law enforcement to trace a gun that is stolen and used in a crime.