U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said re-enacting a ban on assault weapons will be a mandatory element for him in any new gun control measures Congress and President Barack Obama may enact in the wake of several mass shootings.
During an appearance Friday at Elgin Community College, Durbin said the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., made it clear to him that the U.S. has a problem with assault weapons.
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"Military weapons really have no place in sport, or hunting, even self-defense," Durbin said. "Any sportsman or hunter will tell you if you need an AR-15 to go shoot a deer, you ought to stick to fishing."
Congress passed a federal assault weapons ban, prohibiting the civilian use of 19 models of semiautomatic weapons, including some shotguns and rifles, in 1994. The ban expired in 2004.
Pundits have suggested a ban on high-capacity magazines might be both more effective and more politically palatable for Congress. But Durbin said both an assault weapons ban and a high-capacity magazine ban must be part of gun reform for him to support it. He pointed to the 100-round magazine used in the Colorado movie theater shooting as proof of the need for such a ban.
"We sent men to World War II with a five-round clip. They had to keep changing it," Durbin said. "The point was they don't need that kind of firepower. It doesn't have any reasonable connection with the Second Amendment."
Durbin said he will also push for universal background checks, closing the so-called gun show loophole, and tougher penalties on people who buy guns legally and give or resell them to people who can't legally purchase such weapons.
Vice President Joe Biden suggested this week that President Barack Obama could use executive orders to enact some gun control reforms without Congress. Durbin said he wants Congress to be involved, but he fears the power of the NRA and gun lobby may keep many of his colleagues from supporting meaningful reform. If it comes to that, Durbin said he'll support reform by executive order.
"Whatever it takes to keep our streets and schools safe, I'll support," Durbin said. "But I hope we can do it in an orderly congressional process."
As a five-term congressman in the North suburban 10th District, now U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk was a leading House Republican on gun control. It remains to be seen whether Kirk will join Durbin in his efforts. Kirk's staff did not immediately have comment Friday.
• Political Editor Kerry Lester contributed to this report