Gun Debate Turns to Public Policy

Mar 1, 2018

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Big changes to Illinois' gun laws don't happen often. But a growing movement across the country appears to be resonating in the state's General Assembly.

Hundreds rallied outside the statehouse calling for stricter gun control. Several in attendance had lost loved ones to gun violence. They wore pins showing the faces of the deceased.

Mary Kay Mace lost her daughter when a gunman opened fire in a Northern Illinois University classroom. The recent high school shooting in Florida happened on the 10th anniversary of her daughter's death.

“We are piling anniversaries of mass shootings on other mass shootings’ anniversaries. How many other countries can say that?” Mace said. 

Advocates focused on one measure they want to see passed in particular ... it's an idea that has been floated unsuccessfully for over a decade and would require gun dealers be licensed.

They say that could make them more accountable.  

Not everyone agrees with that approach. Here's Savanna GOP Representative Tony McCombie

“Guns do not kill people. People kill people. This bill is not going to change that.” McCombie states. 

Instead, many Republicans and some Democrats say the proposals are ill-considered and were put together too quickly. They argue the rights of law abiding gun owners could be infringed. But two high profile voices of support for gun control  made the trip to Springfield from Chicago., Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and before him. Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich.

Both say action must happen within the state while federal leaders mull over what they will do. Governor Bruce Rauner wasn't on hand, but he’s said he thinks any regulatory changes should happen at the federal level. Seven different gun-safety measures were slated for votes, but only a few actually advanced including one to prohibit anyone under 21 from purchasing so called assault rifles.

Meanwhile, Illinois House Lawmakers debated for several hours while mothers from the earlier rally looked on from the gallery and cheered.

Some ideas had broad support. Republican Representative David Harris of Arlington Heights,  favored a bump stock ban, saying the device’s ability to make a rifle into an automatic weapon makes it too dangerous to be legal. Last fall, the shooter in Las Vegas used a bump stock. Still, the attempt to pass a ban on it in Illinois failed to get enough support in the House back then.  This time was different  

Regulating gun dealers is also an idea that's been considered for years, without getting approval. After sparring back and forth on it for two hours, the vote was in. With 64 voting yes, 52 voting no, and zero voting present, Senate Bill 16-57 passed.

Of all the gun legislation under consideration, that proposal is the first to go to the governor's desk. While some other states are considered better strongholds of the gun rights lobby, in Illinois it’s been able to fight off many past attempts at gun control. Yet the shock of the Florida school shooting and advocacy efforts that have followed appear to be resonating in many statehouses.  

In Illinois, supporters of gun control have made it clear they won't settle for partial victories and say those who don't go along will pay a price in the election.

Story Source: NPR Illinois