Six months after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade left seven people dead and dozens more injured, and just one week before the end of the Illinois General Assembly’s lame duck session, lawmakers are continuing negotiations on a bill that would ban assault weapons from being purchased or owned in the state.
HB 5855, known as the “Protect Illinois Communities Act,” would also prohibit most individuals under the age of 21 from buying firearms in the state of Illinois, and would ban the purchase or manufacture of extended magazines for weapons.
Currently, seven states have laws on the books that ban assault weapons in at least some capacity, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
Rep. Bob Morgan, who was an eyewitness to the tragic shooting at the Fourth of July parade in suburban Highland Park earlier this year, is the chief sponsor of the bill.
“We’ve never been this close at passing this major gun safety legislation, and there is a chance to do it,” Morgan said. “I think there is a critical mass of not just public support, but in the legislature (too), that recognizes that we can do something about the massive flow of semi-automatic rifles and this influx of high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire devices.”
Highland Park City Attorney Steven Elrod says that while the community does have an assault weapons ban on the books, the fact that no such statewide ban exists makes it difficult for such measures to be effective.
In the final public hearing of the year, law enforcement representatives and lobbyists for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) provided opposing testimony on HB 5855, a proposed assault weapons ban in Illinois, NBC 5’s Kate Chappell reports.
“A ban can only be as effective as the least-impactful ordinance statute of a neighboring city or state,” he said.
Data obtained by NBC 5 Investigates shows that more than 73,000 residents filed applications for FOID cards in Illinois during the five months after the Highland Park shooting, marking a 19% increase over the months prior to the attack.
Those individuals who currently own weapons that are deemed “assault weapons” under the proposed legislation would have the option of registering those guns with the Illinois State Police, according to bill sponsors.
With just one week left in the lame-duck session in Springfield, Morgan says there is still time to get the measure across the finish line.
“I do think there’s a path for this to pass,” Morgan said.
Gun violence survivors offered testimonies Monday at the first day of hearings for HB 5855, a wide-ranging gun control bill known as the “Protect Illinois Communities Act.” NBC 5’s Kate Chappell reports.
The alleged shooter pleaded not guilty after being indicted on 117 different charges. His next court appearance is Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, his father was charged with seven counts of reckless conduct for sponsoring his son’s application for a FOID card.
Republicans have largely been critical of the bill, and several groups, including the Illinois State Rifle Association, have promised legal action if the measure were to pass.
Here are the particulars on what the bill will include.
Bans Assault Weapons and Extended Magazines
The legislation would make it illegal to manufacture, deliver, sell or purchase any assault weapon in the state of Illinois. It would also make it illegal to possess such a weapon 300 days after the final passage of the bill.
A full list of weapons classified as “assault weapons” can be found within the text of the bill.
The bill also makes it illegal to own, purchase or possess .50 caliber rifles and cartridges, but there is language in the bill that allows owners who currently have such weapons to keep them.
Individuals who already own weapons that fall under the “assault weapons” definition must register those guns with the Illinois State Police between 80 and 300 days after final passage of the bill. A $25 fee will also be assessed.
Residents also many not purchase or possess magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, and the bill also bans the sale or purchase of “switches,” which can increase a weapon’s rate of fire.
Those switches are technically already banned under federal law.
Raises Age of Legal Gun Ownership From 18 to 21
The bill also contains a provision that raises the minimum age to own a firearm from 18 to 21.
There are exceptions within the bill for use or possession of weapons by individuals under the age of 21. Active-duty members of the military or Illinois National Guard may still possess weapons, as can individuals who are employed by the federal government and must carry weapons as part of their responsibilities.
Individuals under the age of 21 who wish to hunt must do so under the supervision of an adult, and that adult must also have a FOID card.
Allows Prosecutors to Seek the Revocation of Gun Ownership From Those Who Trigger “Red Flag” Laws
If an individual could potentially be required to turn over weapons or be prohibited from purchasing or owning weapons, under terms of the state’s “red flag” laws, then prosecutors can now act as “friends of the court” within those processes.
Previously, only family members or law enforcement agents could utilize “red flag” laws to compel turnover of, or prevent the sale of, weapons.
As currently constructed, the “red flag” law allows family members or law enforcement agents to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or to others.
Currently, those restraining orders can last for six months, but the bill would extend that period to 12 months.
“Red flag” laws came under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the Highland Park shooting, as the alleged shooter was able to purchase multiple weapons despite having threatened violence against his family, and also threatened to harm himself.
The suspect’s father signed a document allowing him to purchase weapons, and law enforcement agents did not move to revoke his weapons.