SPRINGFIELD -- Following the pleas of parents whose children were killed during the Sandy Hook school shooting last year, an Illinois Senate panel agreed to move forward with state Sen. Dan Kotowski's plan to restrict the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
In emotional testimony, the parents tried to make the case that fewer bullets in a magazine could mean fewer deaths in a mass shooting.
"All of these lives were taken in less than four minutes by a single gunman," said Mark Barden, whose son was among 19 children killed at Sandy Hook.
Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat and former gun control lobbyist, has championed the issue for years, but state lawmakers this year so far have focused their firearms efforts elsewhere.
Kotowski's plan now could become part of that mix, or it could get lost in the shadow of the debate over whether people should carry concealed firearms.
"When somebody gets access to a high-capacity ammunition magazine and they use it in a crime, we have real-life dead bodies," Kotowski said. "That's the struggle we're dealing with. And that's why people have traveled thousands of miles to be here."
Like in the national debate on guns, Second Amendment concerns pervade Illinois' talks as well.
Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, told lawmakers in the hearing that 10 rounds is a standard size for many handguns and rifles.
In fact, he said, officers who protect public officials like Gov. Pat Quinn likely have magazines of more than 10 rounds.
"Why is our family, my family, worth any less?" Vandermyde said.
He said the legislation could effectively ban certain guns, depending on how it's interpreted.
The Senate panel approved the limit by a 12-3 vote, sending it to the full Senate for further debate. Of suburban lawmakers on the committee, Democratic state Sens. Terry Link of Waukegan and Don Harmon of Oak Park voted "yes," as did state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont.
Three downstate Republicans voted against it: State Sens. Dave Syverson of Rockford, Dale Righter of Charleston and Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville.
Lawmakers have two weeks left in their annual session and several big issues already on their plates, so getting something done on such a controversial issue could be a challenge.
The guns debate at the Capitol has focused on whether Illinoisans should have the right to carry concealed firearms after a federal court ruled it must be made legal by June 9.
The Illinois Senate has considered legislation that would let many local suburbs set their own rules about where people could carry guns. But some local officials oppose a patchwork of different rules across the region.
"This is one thing I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole," Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said.