Democrats hear some dissent in push to pass assault weapons ban

Concerns brought to lawmakers at a House Judiciary Committee hearing included the constitutionality of the measure, its cost and whether it will prompt more arrests for those under 21.

SHARE Democrats hear some dissent in push to pass assault weapons ban
Members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee attend a hearing on the Protect Illinois Communities Act at the Bilandic Building in the Loop, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. The bill would prohibit the sale of assault weapons and ammunition magazines that have more than 10 rounds and require most state firearm owner identification holders to be 21 or older.

Members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee attend a hearing on the Protect Illinois Communities Act at the Bilandic Building in the Loop Thursday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Flickers of opposition to a comprehensive assault weapons ban in Illinois began to appear in the second of three planned Illinois House committee hearings in Chicago on Thursday.

Criminal justice and crime experts, family members of gun violence victims and a member of multiple pro-gun groups appeared before the House Judiciary Committee as lawmakers heard testimony for more than four hours about a proposed ban that would also prevent sales of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds and raise the eligibility for a state firearm owner identification card for most Illinois residents to 21.

Democrats hope to pass the bill in the lame duck session next month — and they’re banking on political headwinds to try to get it through.

Concerns brought to lawmakers at the hearing included the cost, the constitutionality of the measure and whether it will prompt more arrests for those under 21 who would have been able to legally acquire a FOID card and gun otherwise.

Illinois House Republican Leader-elect Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, told lawmakers she does not support the measure because she doesn’t believe it will address the “root causes of gun violence.” She also criticized Democrats for not involving Republicans in working group discussions.

“HB 5855 will ultimately leave our neighborhoods, our communities and women across Illinois vulnerable to be unprotected and, unfortunately, victimized,” McCombie said. “We do need to focus on solutions that are going to make our communities safer…but if this passes it’s going to be ineffective and unconstitutional. I’m going to continue to argue against this type of legislation and must stress that we do want to do the right thing. The right thing is for us to be part of that solution.”

McCombie later stood up for Abraham Avalos, a Waukegan resident who was at the Highland Park shooting and who is a member of several pro-gun groups. Avalos testified that he was devastated by the mass shooting but did not believe the legislation would prevent future mass shootings. Avalos was questioned by state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) about whether Illinois residents would be better off with the proposed legislation.

“If you wanted their opinion initially, I would have asked that they would have been invited to the working groups, which they were not,” McCombie said. “So please be respectful.”

Artinese Myrick, the lead organizer for the faith-based organization Live Free Illinois, said she supports an assault weapons ban but not in full because it could change the FOID age.

“Now we are not arguing that 18-year-olds need assault weapons, but we are concerned that law abiding citizens may be wrapped up in the system if they are not able to obtain weapons from the proper channels,” Myrick said. “For Black and Brown communities who are over-policed, we have more individuals who are susceptible to being swept up and forgotten in the system.”

Thursday’s hearing also included emotional testimony from gun control organizations such as Moms Demand Action and the Everytown Survivor Network, who spoke in support of the bill.

Dr. Tiffany Gholson, director of parent and student support services for East St. Louis School District #189, said she has been forced to keep detailed statistics of all of the shootings involving her students, including 17 students injured by gunshots within the last four months and a 13-year-old killed two weeks ago in a shooting that also injured three others.

“We have found homemade videos of our students as young as 11-years-old, illegally in possession of automatic guns,” Gholson said. “Guns should not be accessible to our youth. Guns are destroying our community and our children. And the Protect Illinois Communities Act is a step in the right direction.”

The legislation was crafted by House members who were selected to meet in working groups — but Senate Democrats have yet to publicly weigh in on the measure, meaning there is likely to be some tweaking once legislators return to Springfield in early January. Legislators will meet for another hearing in Chicago on Dec. 20.

The Latest
Williams also said he hopes to play for the team for 20 seasons and eclipse Tom Brady’s seven championships.
Hoyer commended the team for persevering through a long road trip, blown leads, an overworked bullpen and injuries.
The Oak Park folk musician and former National Youth Poet Laureate who sings of love and loss is “Someone to Watch in 2024.”
Aaron Mendez, 22 months old, suffered kidney damage and may have to have a kidney removed. His older brother, Isaiah, has been sedated since undergoing surgery. “I’m devastated to think I could have lost both of my kids that night,” their mother told the Sun-Times.
With interest, the plan could cost the city $2.4 billion over 37 years, officials have said. Johnson’s team says that money will be more than recouped by property tax revenue flowing back to the city’s coffers from expiring TIF districts.