The Illinois Senate approved a ban on semiautomatic weapons Monday, hours after Gov. J.B. Pritzker was sworn in to a second term and expressed disgust over shootings so frequent each “needs a title so you know which one we’re referring to.”
The Senate plan differs slightly from the recent House-passed version, but despite initial objections from House Democrats, Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch joined Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon in a statement confirming the House expected to approve the measure Tuesday and send it to Pritzker.
Republicans, voting against the issue which was endorsed 34-20, predicted the law would be overturned in court as unconstitutional.
“We’ve been dealing with gun violence in all fashions for far too long,” said Harmon, a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Oak Park who sponsored the legislation. “We have many laws on the books, but in the end, the proliferation of high-powered weapons whose original basis was in military combat have no place in common commerce or on our streets.”
The legislation would ban the manufacture or possession of dozens of brands and types of rapid-fire rifles and pistols, .50-caliber guns and attachments that enhance a weapon’s firepower. Those who currently own such guns would not be required to surrender them but would have to register them with the Illinois State Police — including serial numbers, a provision initially removed by the Senate but restored after House proponents’ objections.
Merchants who are federally licensed to sell such weapons would be able to dispose of their current inventory by returning them to manufacturers or selling them.
Sen. Chapin Rose, a Republican from Mahomet, about 180 miles northeast of St. Louis, read a list of more than two dozen laws prohibiting possession or use of firearms or restrictions on certain types such as machine guns.
“Every time I pick up and read about a shooting, it’s someone who already is a convicted felon that under that list of existing laws I just read aren’t allowed to have a gun in the first place,” Rose said. “Why don’t we go after the bad guys, put them behind bars and actually keep them there?”
A ban on semiautomatic weapons was a campaign priority for Pritzker, particularly after a gunman killed seven and injured 30 in a July 4th parade shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.
“I’m tired of living in a world where a mass shooting needs a title so you know which one we’re referring to,” Pritzker said after his inauguration Monday afternoon. “Hospitals, high schools, homes, parades, offices — there is no place, geographic or otherwise, that has been spared from the threat of gun violence.”
Pritzker earlier said lawmakers should take aim at “weapons of war.” Sen. Neil Anderson, a Republican from the Mississippi River community of Andalusia, noted that two guns the military still uses aren’t banned. Harmon noted those guns fire off cartridges with lower capacities than those in the bill — 10 rounds for rifles and 15 for pistols.
The plan also would broaden the state’s “red flag” law, which allows a court to confiscate weapons from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others up to a year from the current six months.
Sen. Julie Morrison, the Lake Forest Democrat who sponsored that 2018 law and participated in the Highland Park parade, urged support for the proposal.
“Gun violence has been normalized,” Morrison said. “The callous murder of our children and teachers in our schools, our neighbors in grocery stores, or our friends and family celebrating our nation’s birthday at a parade must end.”