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Illinois Democrats, NRA zero in on ‘bump stocks,’ but Rauner stays mum

Gov. Bruce Rauner with Hegewisch Business Community leaders after a roundtable on keeping jobs in Illinois in June. File Photo. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

As “bump stocks” enter the gun policy discourse in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, a north suburban Democrat is hoping to pass legislation that would ban both assault rifles and conversion devices such as the one used in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting.

The Mandalay Bay tragedy catapulted the previously obscure “bump stocks” into the headlines. Nationwide, Democrats and Republicans are taking a look. Even the National Rifle Association entered the fray, suggesting additional regulation could be in order.

But Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was not ready to join that chorus, declining to take a position on specific gun control measures, including the conversion devices.

A “bump stock” device allowed Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to turn a semi-automatic rifle into a fully automated weapon, which he used to spray bullets into a crowd of concert-goers with devastating results.

A bill introduced Thursday by state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, would ban military style weapons and any device that converts a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon.

Another measure state legislators hope to push through soon would allow officials to remove guns from a home if someone is experiencing a “temporary crisis,” while another — pending in the House — would give the state authority over gun dealers, instead of just leaving oversight to the federal government.

Moylan’s legislation would make it illegal for anyone to possess, deliver, sell or purchase an assault weapon, assault weapon attachment, .50 caliber rifle, .50 caliber cartridge or large capacity ammunition feeding device. It also bans “bump stocks.”

The two issues — assault weapons and “bump stocks” would be paired together, which Moylan said is expected to meet some criticism.

While the NRA expressed openness to looking at regulating bump stocks, the gun lobby has opposed bans on “assault weapons.”

“I’m ready for the resistance but it’s important to pass something to protect people,” Moylan said. “It’s not only going to protect the citizens, but it’s also going to protect police officers, especially with this event that this guy may have scoped out the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago and Lollapalooza.”

“I’m very strong on how I feel of trying to present this bill and getting enough votes to get it passed. Individuals that are going to take an opposite view of this, I will bring up all of the details of why I think it’s important and why we have to protect lives. The hunters that I know and talk to don’t need an AK-47-type weapon to go hunting.”

Rauner has declined to weigh in on any gun legislation in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre.

He routinely steers the questions about gun legislation to dealing with “mental illness.”

“What I hope is that we’ll just have a good conversation as a society together as all Americans about what we can do to protect our constitutional rights and freedoms but also keep our communities safer,” Rauner said at an Aurora event on Thursday. “This is a good conversation. No easy answers. But we need to have the discussion and we need to get the input of law enforcement and community leaders and experts and have a good conversation about what options we have.”

“We as a society, the No. 1 thing we got to do is keep our people safe. … These instances where it seems like there are mentally ill, deranged individuals, what can we do? I think the main thing is that we stay alert for suspicious activity and make sure that we have very vigilant residents and police officers etc.”

He wouldn’t comment on whether he’d support an assault weapons ban: “I’m not going to get into specific policies,” he said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the governor was asked if he’d support a ban on “bump stocks.” He refused to take a position, instead saying “these issues of individuals with mental illness harming others is a problem that we’ve had forever.”

The NRA on Thursday issued a statement saying the “bump stock” device used in the Las Vegas shooting should be “subject to additional regulations.” The NRA said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, too said they want changes to bump stock regulations, although her organization supports the banning of future manufacturing of such devices, among other goals.

The devices 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.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, is also hoping a gun dealer licensing bill that already passed the Illinois Senate will be taken up in the House during a veto session later this month. The measure requires gun dealers throughout the state to have a state license. Currently, dealers have federal oversight, with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives the only authority able to both inspect shops and close down dealers.

“By having a state license, it gives the state the authority to also have oversight in it to make sure that we get rid of the bad apples,” Willis said.

The bill also includes surveillance of brick-and-mortar buildings; requiring employees to have either a Firearm Owner Identification card or a background check; making sure inventory is accurate; and making sure employees are trained to be able to tell when a straw purchase might happen.

Another bill sponsored by Willis would allow family members to petition to have guns taken out of someone’s possession temporarily “due to a temporary crisis.” It would also suspend their FOID card, with owners able to get their guns back within a year. There is already a provision in place in which gun owners with documented mental illness can lose their guns and FOID for five years. Willis described the “temporary” measure as a “step in between.”

Willis said she hopes it’s called for a vote in the House in January.

Contributing: Associated Press