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January 17, 2006
Posted online January 25, 2006

Officials renew call for assault weapons ban


MAC-10 assault weapon
Assault weapon

CHICAGO- Continuing the effort to protect Illinoisans from gun violence, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley today renewed their call to members of the Illinois General Assembly to pass a state assault weapons ban. On the day before his annual State of the State address, the Governor rallied support with Mayor Daley, legislators and advocates against gun violence, for a bill that would ban the manufacture, possession, and delivery of semiautomatic assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, large capacity ammunition feeding devices and the .50 caliber rifle. More than a year ago, leaders in Washington D.C. allowed the federal assault weapons ban to expire.

"Washington D.C. made a terrible mistake when it allowed the federal Assault Weapons Ban to expire. Now firearms that are better-suited for military combat are making there way into the hands of gang members and criminals – and our current law says those weapons are just as acceptable as hunting rifles. That has to change," said Governor Blagojevich.

"We've made great progress over the last several years in reducing the amount of violent crime in our city and our state. But if we expect to maintain that progress, we have to keep the most dangerous weapons off our streets," said Mayor Daley. "Every sane person would agree that machine guns and grenades should be illegal. Their only purpose is to kill large numbers of people. The same is true of military-style assault weapons."

The federal ban on assault weapons was signed by President Clinton in 1994, but lapsed in September 2004 when Congress decided not to renew it, despite assurances from President Bush that he would sign such a renewal.

Assault weapons are extremely dangerous, often used in violent crimes, and are a threat to public safety. These weapons fire bullets rapidly and can fire at multiple targets. In addition, the military-style features make these guns even more dangerous. For example, larger magazines allow a shooter to fire 20, 50, or even 100 rounds without having to reload. Assault weapons have a high level of firepower, can penetrate body armor, and therefore pose a significant threat to police as well as innocent bystanders.

The .50-caliber rifle is among the most destructive weapons available to the public. It's capable of hitting a target accurately from up to 2,000 yards, killing someone from a mile away, or even bringing down an airplane. The ammunition .50-calibers use is able to blow through a half-inch thick piece of steel – and thus easily pierce armor that police officers wear.

These are the kind of weapons that have been used in some heinous crimes, including the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999, in which 13 people were killed and 23 wounded, by weapons that included a TEC-DC9. In March of 1995, a Chicago policeman was killed with the same firearm while investigating a routine burglary. A semiautomatic version of the AK-47 assault rifle was used to kill 5 small children, wounding 29 others and a teacher, at an elementary school in Stockton, California.

Since the federal ban was lifted, the Chicago Police Department has seized 519 assault weapons and 400 in 2005 alone. In fact, just this past New Year's Eve, the Chicago Police Department recovered 22 weapons, including an AK 47 and MAC 10 with a 30 round clip and laser sight – weapons that would be banned statewide if lawmakers pass a measure.

Last session, a bill sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) was narrowly defeated in the Illinois House – falling just three votes short of passage. The Governor, the City of Chicago, and advocates plan an intense lobbying effort again this year to try to pass an assault weapons ban.

"Assault weapons endanger our children, families and law enforcement officials. We must do whatever we can to take them off our streets, and cut off criminals' access to these deadly weapons. I am grateful to Governor Blagojevich and Mayor Daley for making House Bill 2414, the assault weapons ban, a priority, and I look forward to working with them this session to see that this ban becomes law," said Rep. Acevedo.

"Even the Republican Governor of California realized he needed to sign into law this ban on .50-caliber assault weapons to protect his citizens. The least we could do in Illinois is keep up with him," added Sen. John Cullerton.

"Governor Blagojevich and Mayor Daley have shown courage on behalf of gun violence victims in Illinois by standing up to the extremist agenda of the NRA. Illinois families do not want assault weapons on our streets and in our neighborhoods. We are grateful for their efforts to keep us safe from the threat posed by weapons with a high capacity magazine, silencer, automatic trigger with a pistol grip and the other dangerous features of such insidious weapons," said Jennifer Bishop of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Handgun Violence.

"We are very pleased to see that Governor Blagojevich and Mayor Daley support a strong comprehensive prohibition on the future sale of these weapons of mass destruction. These are weapons that are designed for war and pose a tremendous risk to the safety of our communities and our law enforcement officers," said Thom Mannard, Executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence. "Seventy-five percent of Illinois citizens support a ban on the sale of assault weapons and the .50 caliber sniper rifle and the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and our members look forward to working with the Governor and the mayor to pass this legislation designed to protect all Illinois residents."

The Governor and Mayor Daley hope this legislative session can build on the successes of last legislative session which was extremely productive for improving public safety across the state, including:

Last summer, Governor Blagojevich vetoed Senate Bill 57, Senate Bill 2104, and House Bill 340, all bills backed by the National Rifle Association. Senate Bill 57, if not vetoed, would have closed the gun-show loophole, but also required the destruction the Illinois State Police's vital firearm purchases records. The records are used by the Illinois State Police to investigate gun crimes and prepare for raids on possible gun traffickers. Governor Blagojevich pushed for and helped pass Senate Bill 1333, which cleanly closes the gun-show loophole without impacting the database. If it had not been vetoed, HB 340 would have eliminated the waiting-period for gun owners trading in firearms. This would have allowed an individual to trade-in a hunting rifle or small caliber handgun for a military-style assault weapon, without delay. Senate Bill 2104 would have overridden local laws concerning transporting firearms. The veto of SB 2104 allows many towns and cities across Illinois, including Chicago, that have stricter firearm laws to keep their communities safe by enforcing laws that they deem appropriate.

Last summer, the Governor signed SB 1333, which closed the ‘gun-show loophole' by requiring gun sellers, who are not federally licensed firearms dealers, to request background checks from the Illinois State Police (ISP) before they can sell guns at gun shows. If ISP determines, after a background check is conducted, that the buyer is qualified to own a gun, the state police will issue an approval number that is valid for 30 days, during which time the sale must take place. Additionally, the seller must retain records of sales for at least ten years and make those records available to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigations.

The Governor also signed HB 524, HB 132, and HB 35, which imposed harsher prison sentences for individuals convicted of a crime using a firearm. The bills included mandatory prison time for second or subsequent offenses.

The Governor also signed HB 348, which requires State Police to report the name and address of a person who attempted to get a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID card), but was denied, to the local law enforcement agency where the person lives.

The Governor announced $3.9 million for Operation CeaseFire programs in Illinois in the coming fiscal year, including seven $250,000 grants for communities that will receive funding for the first time. Last year, Gov. Blagojevich increased funding for CeaseFire to expand from five Chicago communities to fifteen communities around the state.

Last spring, the Governor created an elite gun trafficking police unit to stop the flow of crime guns into Illinois. The gun unit works with federal authorities and law enforcement agencies from Indiana and Mississippi to detect and capture gunrunners and illegal dealers. More crime guns flow into Illinois from Indiana and Mississippi than from any other state.

© 2005 The Cairo Gate