Chicago-area legislators try every year to approve gun control measures. They narrowly rejected two this afternoon, and they could get another chance to vote on another measure Thursday. The effort highlights the striking fact that 20 Chicago Public School students have been killed by gun violence this year.
Sen. John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, summed up the controversial debate in Springfield during a Statehouse news conference Tuesday with a group of Chicago Public School students. “There has been forever a mistrust, a distrust of legislators from rural areas and legislators from Chicago about gun control. It’s very, very difficult because there’s very little dialogue going on. And up until now, the folks that are from the rural areas have been very suspicious of us. They think we want to take away their guns, and they’ve been successful in killing any efforts that we tried to regulate the use of guns.”
Downstate lawmakers often oppose gun control measures because they have potential to reshape civil rights to own guns and to affect people who hunt for sport.
Cullerton said momentum could swing the other way after the November elections, particularly in the Chicago suburbs where Democrats are gaining hold. “Maybe next year after there are some changes in the legislature, we’ll have enough votes to pass them,” he said.
Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Arne Duncan joined Cullerton and the students in Springfield Tuesday. Regarding the string of gun violence related to gangs in Chicago, he said, “It is absolutely crazy to me that our young people have to grow up and live with this kind of fear.” He specifically mentioned gun legislation in the House. Here are Duncan’s comments, the context and the status for three pieces of legislation:
One gun a month
Duncan’s comments: “I think it is an absolute outrage that Illinois does not limit the handgun buyers to one gun a month. What happens to those guns? They sell them to who? The gang bangers, and we see the devastating consequences.”
Context: Individuals would be limited to buying one handgun a month under a measure sponsored by Rep. Louis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat. He intends to help prevent the number of illegal handguns spreading through the city and state.
Rep. Harry Osterman, a Chicago Democrat sponsoring other gun control measures, described the city’s gun violence as an “epidemic. “Some people may say that is your problem. But ladies and gentlemen, it is our problem.”
Republicans oppose the measure, saying it wouldn’t accomplish what it’s designed to do. They cite gun collectors who might buy multiple guns at one time, and they fear for the civil right to own a handgun for protection. Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, said: “This is an issue of personal rights. The legislator, though well intended, has already admitted that handguns are already illegal in Chicago. This is not going to change that. All it does is infringe on those people I represent.” Rep. David Winters of Shirland, near Rockford, said some GOP lawmakers would consider supporting a measure with a less stringent limit, such as one gun per day.
The Illinois State Rifle Association also opposes the measure as ineffective and affecting only law-abiding citizens. Criminals would simply get their guns from other states, the association says.
Status: It narrowly failed in the House Wednesday afternoon. It’s expected to come back for another vote.
Mandatory background checks
Duncan’s comments: “It is even more sickening that we do not require automatic background checks because that would help to keep guns away from gang bangers and drug dealers.”
Context: Cullerton said Tuesday that the measure with the most potential to advance through both chambers would mandate background checks for the sale of handguns from one private individual to another (both must have FOID cards). The private sale of guns would have to take place in a federally licensed dealer, triggering the automatic background check. The rule wouldn’t apply if a person sold a gun to another family member, including in-laws.
The Illinois Rifle Association opposes the mandated background checks as “highly burdensome” for private citizens with no demonstrable effect on crime.
The other sticky subject, however, is that the measure, sponsored by Osterman, includes controversial language that would prohibit the governor from using administrative rules to implement new policies. That might not fly in the Senate.
Status: The measure, minus the language about administrative rules, narrowly failed twice last year. Osterman said he could call it for a floor vote if he thinks he has enough support. It’s going to be close.
Semi-automatic weapons ban
Duncan's comments: “We think it’s absolutely inexcusable that Illinois does not have a ban on assault weapons. If hunters want to go hunt, let them hunt deer. We have no problem with that. No challenge there. But no one hunts deer with assault weapons. The only thing that people hunt with assault weapons is other people.”
Context: The measure, sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat, would make it illegal to own, sell, manufacture or buy semi-automatic assault weapons or attachments, including any .50 caliber rifle or .50 caliber cartridge.
The Illinois Rifle Association says the ban would affect popular sporting rifles and shotguns and include a registration system that would cost taxpayers $300 million a year, as well as that it has no demonstrable effect on crime.
Status: The measure stalled in the House so far this year and stalled in the Senate last year.