Editorial: Let Naperville lead suburbs with ban on assault weapons sales
In proposing a ban on most sales of assault weapons within its borders, the Naperville City Council is doing what it can to be a part of the solution to the insanity of mass killings in this state and nation.
What the city is proposing, as critics point out, will have a limited effect by itself. The ordinance, if passed on Aug. 16 (or later), will ban any licensed gun-selling business or dealer in Naperville from selling semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, and large-capacity magazines for those guns that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The ordinance does not prohibit any resident of Naperville from owning assault weapons, nor does it prohibit private sales.
On Tuesday, the City Council amended the proposed ordinance to remove handguns from the list of weapons that would be prohibited from being sold and remove a ban on the sale of large-capacity magazines for handguns, making the ordinance more likely of passing a divided council.
As we said, it's what Naperville can do. The FOID law passed in 2013 gave Illinois municipalities a 10-day window to pass ordinances prohibiting ownership of assault weapons, hardly enough time for most communities to consider it at the time. Highland Park, Evanston, Melrose Park, Skokie, North Chicago, Lincolnwood and Burbank got bans passed; Naperville did not. Now the best leaders there or in every other suburb can do is regulate the commercial sale of those weapons.
Other than Evanston (about 75,000 population), Naperville at 147,000 residents is a lot bigger than those communities. When Naperville talks, people listen.
We hope they are listening now. Fundamentally, assault weapons do not belong in the hands of ordinary citizens. These awful weapons are killing machines that have no place in our communities -- they are not designed for hunting, target practice or skeet shooting or to protect homes and property. They are designed to kill people with alarming efficiency.
That alarming efficiency was on display July 4 in Highland Park and on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, and those are only the latest examples. We don't need any more to prove the point; we need to make these weapons as inaccessible as possible.
So, we support what Naperville is attempting to do, despite our usual reluctance to back legislation that will result in potentially confusing "this town has a ban, this town doesn't" rules.
Moreover, we support it, even with a bill pending in the General Assembly that would make it a felony to buy or sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. Offered by state Rep. Maura Hirschauer, a Batavia Democrat, the bill would also require existing owners of such weapons to register them with the Illinois State Police, and it would prohibit those owners from selling them in-state to anyone but a federally licensed firearms dealer.
We support Naperville's proposal even though it won't solve everything today, or in a month or a year. City councils are not under the same kind of political pressure state legislatures are, and the steady drumbeat of community after community getting behind a ban on sales could eventually have a bigger effect.
Illinois cannot afford to wait to see what happens in Springfield. Communities can take up the cause now, and should.
Public safety, after all, is one of the primary obligations of a municipality. Let Naperville lead the way for other suburbs -- imperfect though the tools may be. Let us use what we have to keep our communities safe.