A divided Buffalo Grove village board narrowly passed a ban on assault weapons Monday, becoming one of just handful of suburban communities to take up the state legislature on its offer allowing them to bar possession of certain firearms.
Approving the measure took a tiebreaking vote by Village President Jeffrey Braiman, who accurately predicted he wouldn't receive any applause from a capacity crowd that weighed in with prolonged public comment overwhelmingly tilted against a ban.
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The Buffalo Grove ban differs from a Cook County ordinance already in effect on the Cook side of the village. The ordinance is in essence a placeholder, limiting the ban to already outlawed weapons classified as machine guns. But having it on the books reserves the village's right to enact more restrictive measures in the future, an option officials would not have if they allowed the deadline to pass this week without action.
In the end, Braiman's vote came down on the side of local control.
"What we have here is ... a protection of our home rule rights," he said. "Do I want to send a message? Absolutely. I send messages to the state legislature regarding home rule all the time. Unfortunately they don't listen. And I don't think they're going to listen to what we say here today. I think we have to take action to protect the rights that we have as a home rule community."
Lester Ottenheimer III, Andrew Stein and Beverly Sussman joined Braiman in the majority. Several trustees expressed frustration with the state's requirement they enact a ban by the end of the week or not at all.
"Thanks to the Illinois General Assembly, we are forced to act now, or forever be banned from taking action in the future," Stein said.
"We have an obligation to do what we believe is in the best interests for the health and safety of our citizens. We are only preserving our right to do that," Ottenheimer added.
Sussman said the ban should be a state or federal decision, but added that she still believes it necessary.
"However, (state and federal lawmakers) didn't do anything about it. Therein lies the problem," she said. "Then I think about schoolchildren. As soon as I think about schoolchildren, I just feel that this is necessary."
Voting against the measure were Jeffrey Berman, Michael Terson and Steven Trilling. Trilling spoke strongly in favor of punting the matter back to Springfield.
"I think I'm going to send a message back to our state legislature and say, 'You know what? You're trying to put this problem back on us. It ain't our problem. This is going to go back to the state,'" he said.
Terson said he understands why some support the ban, but ultimately does not think it will make a difference.
"We see terrible things happen in our country. Places like Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., even closer to home in DeKalb, Ill. And we want to keep things like that from happening in our communities," he said.
However, he added, the local ban is a symbolic gesture that will not make residents any safer.
"I would speculate that Buffalo Grove residents are at a far greater risk of being killed by a drunk driver than by an assault weapon or gun of any kind," he said. "Yet no one has suggested banning alcohol, the sale of alcohol, or prohibiting bars and restaurants from being able to sell alcohol to people who drive to their establishments."
The board received extensive comment from the public, with statements from, among others, a former Lincolnshire police officer, a molecular biologist and former Village President Elliott Hartstein.
Hartstein said the General Assembly has placed municipalities in an unfair position. He urged not only Buffalo Grove, but all communities throughout the state with the ability to do so, should preserve their right to act on the issue. He also urged the village eventually to enact a meaningful, fair and reasonable law regarding assault weapons.
"Sometimes it takes municipalities -- it takes people at the local level -- to act before some people at higher levels of government take action," he said.
Art Ellingson, founder of the Arlington Heights Tea Party, said numerous studies have shown that gun control laws do not reduce gun violence.
Village resident Steve Bergman, who said he owns a handgun, said that while he appreciates the village limiting the ban to machine guns for now, he worries that trustees in the future could expand the ordinance.
He also voiced concern about the confusion that could be caused by a new crop of local municipal laws, so that somebody traveling through the state with a legal weapon in one town could find himself violating the law in the next town.
"I would urge the board to do nothing," he said.