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updated: 7/2/2013 8:03 AM

Wheeling rejects assault weapon ban

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The almost-unanimous vote against an assault weapon ban in Wheeling Monday was less dramatic than the impassioned pleas against the ban by nine village residents.

Trustee Ray Lang voted "present," and said after the meeting he did not want to vote on the issue. All the other trustees and Village President Dean Argiris voted "no" with no comment.

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Argiris predicted the vote before the meeting, and citing the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, said hobbyists are not the ones killing people.

"If someone wants to do a crazy thing like shooting up a school, they're going to do it anyway," he said.

At least 30 opponents of the ban attended the meeting and applauded the vote. No one spoke in favor of the ban.

Everyone who spoke against the ban praised the first speaker, Jeremy Puent, who said the weapons listed in the proposed ban are not the same as those carried by military personnel and that fully automatic weapons have been illegal since 1934.

Puent listed several impressive statistics about guns and crime that are disputed by other sources.

For example, he said a study instigated by President Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found victims of violent crime who defend themselves with a method other than a gun are more likely to be injured.

However, a news release last month from the National Academies, which was reporting on the study that it participated in, said: "Many Americans keep firearms to defend themselves against criminals, but research devoted to understanding the defensive and deterrent effects of guns has resulted in mixed and sometimes widely divergent findings."

Puent said the solution is getting tougher on criminals.

"People commit these crimes today because usually, all they get is a slap on the wrist," he said. "Make them pay, and you'll begin to deter crime."

Other speakers urged the village board not to make them criminals because they own certain weapons and said if the ban passed lawsuits would cost the village dearly.

Tony Duytschaever said he is the first line of defense for his home and family.

"I don't want to be outgunned by criminals," Duytschaever said.

Casey Bartnik, a Wheeling attorney, said semi-automatic weapons are the weapons of choice for sportsmen and for self-defense, especially for women.

Village Attorney James V. Ferolo said the draft ordinance was based on one Cook County adopted several years ago. While Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle's office said the ordinance is in force even in home rule communities, Ferolo said there is some question about whether the village can enforce the county ordinance.

The Cook County state's attorney has recommended that municipalities that want to enforce the county's ordinance enter into an agreement with the county, he said.

"That hasn't been discussed here to my knowledge," Ferolo said.

Under court order the Illinois legislature passed a bill allowing concealed carry of weapons. The law said local governments can only regulate "assault weapons," and only until 10 days after the bill becomes law. Gov. Patrick Quinn has not yet signed it.

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