Fall special session on assault weapons ban unlikely, but G-PAC demands action

Guns displayed for sale at a shop in Peoria, Illinois.
Guns displayed for sale at a shop in Peoria, Illinois.(WEEK)
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 4:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Two months have passed since seven people were killed and dozens more were injured during a shooting at a Highland Park parade, and it seems less likely that Illinois lawmakers will hold a special session this fall to address assault weapons.

The Gun Violence Prevention PAC says it appears there isn’t the political will to call a special session to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines before the November election. President and CEO Kathleen Sances said Friday there is a public outcry to pass those initiatives as soon as possible.

Bills are already filed in both chambers, but there clearly isn’t enough support. Sances explained her organization knows of 58 representatives and 17 senators willing to vote for the ban. These proposals would need support from 71 representatives and 36 senators in order to pass.

“Although the public is asking for these protections, we have lawmakers in districts who aren’t there yet,” Sances said.

She said Illinois has seen 29 mass shootings between Memorial Day and Labor Day, leaving 21 people dead and 139 injured.

“Bullets don’t know party,” Sances said. “We’re all at the risk of being the next victim. It used to be about proximity, but now every community all over the state is experiencing gun violence. And if they haven’t yet, it’s coming to your neighborhood unless we keep working to pass meaningful reforms to reduce it.”

Sances said G-PAC plans to launch a new outreach program alongside a statewide coalition of 200 organizations within the next few weeks to get more public support for an assault weapons ban. A recent poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 71% of Americans support stricter gun laws.

Sances said advocates won’t let legislative leaders forget about their calls for change following the Highland Park shooting.

The U.S. Supreme Court empowered gun lobbyists across the country by overturning a New York gun control law in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case, ruling that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, including using firearms outside of a home for self-defense.

Now, Illinois gun lobby organizations have filed lawsuits against local governments that called for assault weapon bans.

“They’ve filed suit against Highland Park, Naperville, and in other states. That’s how this works,” Sances said. “We’ve made a lot of reforms in Illinois. We have some really good gun laws. At the same time, our opponents are trying to roll those back everyday whether through legislation or litigation.”

G-PAC suggested people should contact their lawmakers to demand immediate action. Sances said Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) and Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) are champions on this issue. She said that advocates are just waiting for the rest of the Democratic caucus of both chambers to follow their lead and support the ban.

“Unfortunately, I can be confident of one thing. There will be another shooting,” Sances said. “And then we’ll be right back here talking about it again.”

Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) is leading a House working group focused on firearm safety and reforms. Sances said Morgan’s work group is looking at other evidence-backed reforms that could be rolled into a gun reform omnibus package. Advocates hope that can include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, changes to address weaknesses in the FOID card system, and tackling issues with the implementation of the state’s firearm restraining order law.

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