Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Democrats target guns

By Patrick O'Brien
House Democrats tried again Wednesday to advance measures designed to curb gun violence.

For instance, if children got hold of their parents’ guns, which they legally owned and registered, then parents could be held responsible under a proposal by Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris. The parents would lose their FOID cards. The proposal passed out of committee along party lines and goes to the full House, though Harris said negotiations with opponents of the bill will continue.

The bill doesn’t require the minor to commit a crime for the parents to have their gun rights revoked. That goes too far for some. The law would apply to children who had a history of violence rooted in mental health.

Harris said the bill responds to past cases involving minors and their parents’ guns that were brought to his attention by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “It seems to me there is a clear and present danger,” he said in committee.

Todd Vandermyde of the NRA doesn’t think the measure addresses the problem and was troubled by the language, which he said could prevent “children” up to age 21 from lawfully possessing a firearm. Eighteen-year-olds are allowed to own guns in Illinois.

“I think that in some cases they are trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer,” he said. “They’re trying to take rights away when a crime hasn’t been committed.”

Denise Kane, the inspector general who brought the issue to Harris’ attention, said the law intends to keep potentially violent teens from easily accessing guns in their own homes.

She recounted an incident in Rockford where a 14-year-old boy shot and wounded his 15-year-old friend. The boy had previously used his parents’ legally owned guns to shoot another boy with a pellet rifle and had brought ammunition to school. Though the boy had accessed his parents’ guns three times without their permission, the state could not revoke the parents’ right to own guns.

Another measure, sponsored by Rep. William Davis, a Homewood Democrat, failed. It would have ammunition laser encoded to better investigate crimes. The measure was soundly turned away by the committee after representatives of Winchester Ammunition’s East Alton plant said the measure would force it to close the plant and relocate 1,700 jobs out of state.

Watch for the next major front in the annual fight between gun rights activists and many Democrats — the assault weapons ban that waits action in the House. Measures to require firearms training courses for gun owners and a firearm relinquishment amnesty for illegal gun owners may also be heard by the committee soon.

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