Posted by Ashley Rueff at 12:45 p.m.
SPRINGFIELD---Hours before busloads of gun rights advocates are scheduled to descend on the Capitol, a House committee today advanced a series of measures designed to increase gun control in Illinois.
Among the restrictions approved by the House Executive Committee include an assault weapons ban and legislation allowing only one gun purchase a month. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley perenially pushes for such gun crackdowns due to continued violence in some city neighborhoods.
Testifying in favor of anti-gun measures was Annette Nance, whose son, Blair Holt, was shot on a CTA after leaving Julian High School in May 2007.
“Ever since then I’ve been on board trying to change the laws,” Nance said. She is a firefighter and her ex-husband, Ronald Holt, is a police officer. Together they started Purpose Over Pan, a support group for families that have lost loved ones to gun violence.
“I don’t have a problem with them voicing their rights,” Nance said. “I have a problem with guns killing people.”
Shortly before 2 p.m. gun rights backers are scheduled to finish their march to the Capitol to lobby lawmakers on issues such as letting people carry concealed weapons. It's part of the Illinois State Rifle Association's annual lobby day.
Supporters of tough gun restrictions want to crack down on the availability of weapons in a society marred by shooting rampages that have left a trail of death at Northern Illinois University, a Baptist church in Downstate Maryville and on the streets of Chicago.
But gun rights advocates argue that making guns more available will cause criminals to think twice before they turn ordinary citizens into the latest victims of gun crimes.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the rifle association, said he expects more than 5,000 gun owners to visit Springfield because they are "seeing legislation that attacks their rights, and they're not happy about it."
The group is particularly fired up following last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban as unconstitutional, prompting a similar pending challenge to Chicago's own ban.
In Illinois, the pressure this year is targeted at legislation to let citizens carry concealed weapons with training and a permit. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states banning such action, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Sponsoring Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) said the high court's handgun ruling is among issues helping his bill gain momentum.
"Now will it be enough for us to pass it? I don't know," Bradley said.
Bradley acknowledged that one of the hardest hurdles to overcome on many gun bills is they need three-fifths approval to pass the House and Senate rather than a simple majority.
Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) is hoping he can pass a bill to leave it up to each county to decide whether to allow concealed carry. Even the NRA opposes the county-by-county proposal, saying it would be as confusing as putting different speed limits in different counties without telling motorists how fast they can go when they cross county lines.
Opposition also remains strong against the concealed carry proposals from the Chicago area's law-and-order sectors, including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, who say legalizing concealed weapons in urban areas would make violence worse.
"Bar fights will turn into murders," Alvarez said.
What both sides have in common is that neither proposal is likely to become law this year—the two sides in the gun debate tend to neutralize each other, with only their membership lists fattened.
6 years 11 weeks ago, 7:07 PM