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State

Illinois House OKs assault-weapon age-limit, bump-stock ban

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson shakes hands with Rep. Daniel J. Burke, D-Chicago, after new gun legislation, part of which is written and named in honor of slain 18th District Cmdr. Paul Bauer, passed a committee Tuesday in Springfield.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson shakes hands with Rep. Daniel J. Burke, D-Chicago, after new gun legislation, part of which is written and named in honor of slain 18th District Cmdr. Paul Bauer, passed a committee Tuesday in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House controlled by Democrats pushed through some gun control measures Wednesday, endorsing a bump-stock ban and a minimum age of 21 for buying assault-style weapons in response to a Florida massacre and the killing of a Chicago police officer.

The House voted to prohibit the sale of bump stocks and “trigger cranks,” which increase rifles’ firing rates, effectively making them assault-style weapons. Also approved was a bar on anyone younger than 21 buying assault-style weapons of the type used in the shooting deaths of 17 students in Parkland, Florida. And after a contentious debate, the House OK’d a Senate-approved measure for state licensing of gun dealers, which now goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The other proposals need Senate approval but lawmakers expect quick action after this month’s violent incidents and public frustration just weeks before Illinois voters go to polls March 20 for the primary election.

Rachel Bold, spokeswoman for Rauner, would not state his position on particular bills, but signaled his support of a bump-stock ban and said the Republican is encouraged by the “bipartisan conversation.”

“We will work with the General Assembly to keep guns out of the wrong hands, ban bump stocks, make our schools safer and work with law enforcement to protect our children and families,” Bold said.

Critics such as the Illinois State Rifle Association and a trade association of firearms dealers oppose the package, calling it overly broad, poorly written and, in some cases, a constitutional overreach.

The ban on bump stocks had failed last fall but Wednesday more than a dozen Republicans joined Democrats to pass it.

“Assault weapons have one purpose – to inflict maximum injury and death,” GOP Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, a U.S. Army veteran and former state adjutant general, said about bump stocks. “You pull the trigger and the bullets keep coming out until the magazine is empty. No one needs this device to hunt deer or duck.”

Despite decades of Democratic control of the Illinois House, measures to clamp down on firearms are few and far between. Chicago Democrats, faced with daily headlines of gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city, come to Springfield only to lock horns with more conservative central and southern Illinois members of the same party who strongly support hunting and the 2nd Amendment constitutional right to bear arms.

The debate generating the most heat was over state licensing of firearms dealers. It would require the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to collect $1,000 from each dealer for a five-year license. It would require training of employees and videotaping in “critical areas” of the business. The sponsor, Addison Democratic Rep. Kathleen Willis, said state oversight would identify and eliminate the practice of straw purchasers buying guns legally and then selling them to criminals.

But opponents noted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives already licenses gun dealers and its audits are time-intensive and expensive.

A 72-hour “cooling off” period before a buyer could pick up his or her assault-style weapon was approved with little debate.

A proposal to ban high-capacity magazines and civilian use of body armor, as well as another to create a tip line to alert authorities to a neighbor or family member who poses a danger, were not brought to a vote.

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