One step closer: Illinois House hopes Senate approves assault weapon ban

Gov. JB Pritzker and Rep. Bob Morgan take a picture with advocate Rachel Jacoby after the...
Gov. JB Pritzker and Rep. Bob Morgan take a picture with advocate Rachel Jacoby after the Illinois House approved an assault weapon ban on Jan. 6, 2023.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 4:22 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The Illinois General Assembly could have an assault weapon ban heading to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk by Tuesday night. State lawmakers had a late night in Springfield Thursday as they finalized details in the proposal to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. House Democrats approved the plan at 12:46 a.m. Friday, but the Senate decided not to vote on the bill later in the day.

Illinois Democrats have tried several times to pass assault weapon bans in the past, but there was never the political will to get those proposals across the finish line. Democratic leaders feel they now have the momentum needed six months after the Highland Park mass shooting.

“This is an important step in getting these dangerous weapons meant for battlefields out of our neighborhoods,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

The plan bans the manufacture, sale, delivery and possession of assault weapons in Illinois. Senate Bill 2226 also blocks the sale of high-capacity magazines that hold more than 12 rounds of ammunition. The legislation could also ban the sale or purchase of switches that can increase the rate of gunfire.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin feels now is the time to say enough is enough.

“I’m not going to move on from Highland Park or, for that matter, Chicago or any other communities torn apart by these guns,” Durkin said.

People who currently own assault-style weapons will be allowed to keep their guns under this plan. However, they would be required to document the serial number of the firearms with Illinois State Police within 300 days after the effective date.

Gun lobby groups and many Republican lawmakers argue that this will infringe on Second Amendment rights. They hope courts will rule against the plan if it is signed into law.

“People in Southern Illinois don’t trust this. They believe next year you will change this bill again,” said Rep. Chalie Meier (R-Okawville). “You won’t leave it the way it is. You will take more of our rights away.”

The legislation is a top priority for Rep. Bob Morgan, who survived the shooting that left seven dead and dozens more injured on the Fourth of July. Morgan recalled how he made sure his family was safe before running back to the scene to help many of his friends and neighbors.

“A lot of you have been directly impacted by gun violence - mass shootings, death by suicide, individual gun violence,” Morgan said. “And you have created this legislation by sharing your story with me and with us in this chamber. So, I want to thank you all.”

This proposal passed out of the Illinois House on a 64-43 vote with Durkin as the only Republican supporting the measure.

Morgan and Pritzker left the House floor to celebrate the bill’s passage with advocates watching from the House gallery. Many of the people fighting for the ban are survivors of mass shootings as well.

“You did this. You should feel great,” Pritzker said. “Can I give you a hug? Thank you. Thank you. You guys deserve all the credit here. Great job.”

The ban still needs approval from the Senate, but the chamber decided not to vote on the plan Friday. Senate President Don Harmon’s spokesperson John Patterson said the Democratic caucus needs more time to review and evaluate the proposal.

Senate Democrats could possibly file their own bill for an assault weapon ban before they return for session on Sunday. Caucus leaders would not confirm if they planned to file a separate proposal Friday.

“These are critically important issues, and the Senate Democratic Caucus is committed to enacting the most effective legislation possible,” Patterson said.

Regardless of the next steps for the Senate, the Illinois State Rifle Association condemned the actions of state lawmakers.

“The Illinois General Assembly is working to pass a bill that the law-abiding gun owners across the state will fear, but criminals will ignore, as they already do to the dozens of laws already on the books,” said ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. “What is most alarming is the impact this will happen on police departments as they try to determine how to implement this law on their law-abiding constituents.”

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