Illinois Senate passes ban on high-powered weapons, virtually assuring it'll become law

The state Senate on Monday passed legislation to ban the sale and manufacture of certain high-powered weapons and large-capacity magazines in Illinois, after tweaking that requires it to be sent back to the House on Tuesday for approval before it can be signed by the governor.

But Gov. J.B. Pritzker, House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch and Senate President Don Harmon, all Democrats, issued a joint statement in support of the legislation that started in the House last week.

"After continued negotiations between the leaders, stakeholders and advocates, we have reached a deal on one of the strongest assault weapons bans in the country," their Monday statement said.

The legislation was prompted in large part by the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured.

Republicans, voting against the measure that drew a 34-20 Senate tally in favor, predicted the law would be overturned in court as unconstitutional.

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.

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, rather than 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."

But 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 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?"

The new legislation provides a long list of specific weapons that would qualify as "assault weapons," based largely on the federal ban that was in effect from 1994 until 2014. Firearms used for hunting that are explicitly allowed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would not fall under the ban.

Harmon presented an amendment Sunday that removed language on the requirement of owners of soon-to-be-banned weapons to report them to the state police, ABC 7 reported, but the amendment was withdrawn after a backlash.

The Senate bill did in the end make a modification from the House bill on banned high-capacity magazines, ABC 7 reported. For long guns, it would be for those with more than 10 rounds. For handguns, it would be those with more than 15 rounds.

The legislation would also ban certain weapon attachments, or devices that make other guns resemble high-powered weapons, as well as "switches" - devices that increase a semi-automatic weapon's rate of fire, effectively turning them into fully automatic weapons.

The bill garnered the support of North and Northwest suburban lawmakers.

"As a member of the community neighboring Highland Park, I know firsthand how devastating the shooting was for our neighbors," said Sen. Laura Fine, a Glenview Democrat. "We cannot stand idle as assault weapons continue to be used for violence."

"We have lost too many lives to gun violence and we must take proactive action to end this epidemic," said Sen. Ann Gillespie, an Arlington Heights Democrat.

"We know that no amount of regulation can ensure we prevent these senseless killings, but each time we limit the ability for a dangerous person to access a firearm, we potentially save a life," said Sen. Laura Murphy, a Des Plaines Democrat. "In addition, the measure protects the rights of every law-abiding gun owner."

The deal on the legislation followed dramatic testimony earlier Monday from Highland Park mother Ashbey Beasley, who was at the July 4 parade with her 6-year-old son, Beau, WBEZ reported. She played a phone recording of her son's screams as she and he tried to escape the chaos that ensued as a rooftop gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets. Neither Beasley nor her son were shot.

Later, state Sen. Darren Bailey, the Xenia Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Pritzker for the governor's office in November, vowed to fight the legislation, WBEZ reported.

"You also must know I and millions of other gun owners in this state will not comply," Bailey said.

One of the last-minute changes made to the bill was a provision that would allow Illinois gun manufacturers to continue producing the weapons but would limit their sales to only law enforcement or out-of-state purchasers in jurisdictions where the weapons are still permitted.

The final versions of the measure were also stripped of provisions that would have prohibited individuals ages 18 to 21 from purchasing a firearm, even with a parent's consent. They also removed a provision requiring hunters younger than 21 to be under the supervision of someone over 21 with a valid FOID card.

• Capitol News Illinois and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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