Illinois committee holds second hearing on potential assault weapon ban


CHICAGO — The debate over whether to ban assault weapons in Illinois unfolded Thursday at the second State House Committee hearing of the week.

Lawmakers heard around four hours of testimony at the public hearing on House Bill 58-55.

The proposed legislation has several pieces to it, including a ban on assault-style weapons and raising the age for most Illinoisans to carry a gun from 18 to 21.

If passed, the bill would also ban extended magazines and allow people to petition for a one-year firearm restraining order, rather than the six-month order currently in place.

Lawmakers heard from four panels, including data experts and researchers, shooting survivors, leaders of grassroots efforts and several other members of the public who testified.

At one point the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority laid out statistics on shooting deaths and the lethality based on weapons used. They say since the federal assault weapon ban expired, mass shooting deaths have spiked 500%.

The push for stricter legislation comes months after the Highland Park mass shooting that left seven people dead and dozens injured.

Many who support the new legislation mentioned that killed along with other recent shootings where high-powered weapons were used, including in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.

While many who testified expressed support for the ban on assault weapons, they also called for more resources for the outreach efforts working to reduce gun violence in the community daily.

“I’m all for the ban of assault weapons,” Joseph Saunders with Brave Youth Group, said. “I wish all guns is off the streets, but that’s not reality. If this ban were to take effect, we’ve got hearts that need to be changed, minds that need to be changed.”

Several people also spoke out against parts of the bill, like raising the age to get a FOID card to 21. Others, including House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, argued the ban on assault weapons would infringe on second amendment rights.

“While the name itself seems innocent, there are concerns with it being unconstitutional,” McCombie said. “It doesn’t protect citizens in an immediate or possible long-term and it doesn’t reinforce current laws or regulations already in place.”

The law would also address illegal gun trafficking in the state and how state police would enforce the laws.

When asked for Illinois State Police supports the bill, lawmakers didn’t specify, only saying ISP Director Brendan Kelly is expected to testify next week.

If this measure were to pass, it would join other states, like California and New York, that have enacted similar laws.

State Representative Bob Morgan said he is hoping to pass the legislation early next month.

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