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Laurel White/MEDILL

Governor Quinn said legislators "have life-saving work to do."


Joining the gun control chorus

by Laurel White
Feb 6, 2013


Governor Pat Quinn added his voice to the rising chorus of national gun control advocates during his State of the State address on Wednesday.
 
The governor dedicated about five minutes of his 40-minute speech to gun control measures, including calls for an Illinois ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazine clips, better background checks and a law that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

“In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah wept day and night for the slain of his people,” Quinn said. “Today, we all weep over the senseless violence in our communities.”

A bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips has already been introduced to the 98th General Assembly, sponsored by Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz (D-Chicago). The bill, SB 42, is currently awaiting a committee assignment.

Some say that the assault weapons ban is a waste of time.

“It’s a smokescreen so we don’t have to deal with real problems,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
 
Pearson says that the assault weapons ban is going after guns that aren’t really assault weapons – they just look like them.

“They’re taking semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that aren’t assault weapons and acting like they are,” he said. “It’s the same as if you took a Ferrari body and put it on a Volkswagen engine.”

Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) is sponsoring a bill that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons to local law enforcement within 72 hours of the loss. That bill, SB 69, has not yet been voted out of the Senate Public Health committee.
 
The governor didn’t mention a hugely contentious gun-control issue in the state: concealed carry. Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons was declared unconstitutional in December by a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state was then ordered to pass legislation allowing concealed carry within 180 days.
 
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon announced last month that she would be convening a state firearms working group to discuss the pending legislation. Simon, who is from southern Illinois, is attempting to bridge the chasm of opinion between urban and rural state legislators. Her group comprises senators and representatives from across the state.

According to Simon’s office, the working group met for the first time today. Members saw presentations by the National Rifle Association, Illinois State Rifle Association, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and the Brady Campaign. 
 
“As we move toward the court-mandated deadline to pass a concealed carry bill, we need to be sure that we better understand the many varied – and often regional – perspectives on gun issues,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “Each member of our group is eager to learn more, and I’m hopeful this will allow us to find common ground as the legislative session unfolds.”

Quinn also called on counties to improve their reporting of mental health records to the state. The state Department of Human Services and Illinois State Police enter the records into a national background check database. The most recent numbers indicated that only 22 of the state’s 102 counties are currently reporting.