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House ‘bump stock’ ban fails — opponents say it outlaws too many guns

A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is shown on a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right). Congress is talking about banning this device after it was reported to have been used in the Las Vegas shootings. | George Frey/Getty Images

SPRINGFIELD — Downstate Democrats joined with Republicans Thursday to thwart a ban on devices that make a semi-automatic rifle shoot about as fast as a fully automatic weapon — arguing the bill would have outlawed too many types of weapons.

State Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, said about 40 percent of the “50 to 60″ guns he owns would be banned under the bill.

“I use them for hunting, hunting only,” Costello said. “I have a major issue with that.”

The bill was designed to ban “bump stocks,” the device that allowed Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people in a matter of minutes. But the bill that failed was not limited to just bump stocks, instead including other similar mechanisms that allow weapons to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.

State Rep. Emanuel (Chris) Welch, D-Hillside, said there would be more support for the bill if the massacre had occurred in Chicago.

“It is time for us to do something. There is absolutely no reason why this type of device is needed,” Welch said. “This device is not needed and the time to act is now. But for the grace of God, that could have been any one of us. Any one of us. And if it happened in Chicago, we know this discussion would be completely different.”

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, speaks to lawmakers while on the House floor in 2016. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)
State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, speaks to lawmakers while on the House floor in 2016. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)

The bill was defeated, 48-54 with nine Downstate or suburban Democrats joining Republicans in voting against it. It marked the first effort by the Illinois General Assembly to try to tackle the thorny issue since Paddock unleashed the nation’s worst mass shooting in history.

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said the bill would take the rights away from law-abiding citizens.

A competing measure sponsored by State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, supported by the Illinois Rifle Association, would ban only “bump stocks” — not all gun modifications.

The bill voted down Thursday morning, sponsored by State Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, would have banned any device that converts a semi-automatic weapon to allow it to fire like an automatic weapon.

Moylan’s bill would also require a FOID card to purchase tannerite, which is an explosive chemical typically used for firearms practice. That was also phone in possession of the Vegas shooter. The item is commonly sold in sporting goods stores.

Bump stocks are legal and were intended to help people with limited hand mobility fire a semi-automatic without the individual trigger pulls required. They fit over the rear-shoulder stock assembly and allow shooters to increase the firing rate from between 45 and 60 rounds per minute to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

After the bill failed, Moylan said he planned to try again: “We’re going to try to get a reasonable bill that will protect our citizens.” He didn’t say whether a new bill would be introduced during next month’s veto session.

“This is all a process. I’d like to get it done as soon as possible but there are other things that affect your bills,” Moylan said.

During debate, State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, said the measure is a “chance to show the country where Illinois stands on issues of national importance.”

He also reminded lawmakers of reports the Las Vegas shooter had his eyes on Lollapalooza as well. He noted even the National Rifle Association went after bump stocks after the shooting.

“That is exactly what people suggested in the wake of this horrific massacre,” Drury said, adding it will “finally show Americans all over the country that we value the right to live.”

“That we think it’s ok to send our children to Grant Park for Lollapalooza without worrying whether someone has converted their gun into a machine gun who is going to slaughter our kids,” Drury said.