Senate panel acts on high-capacity gun magazines

News-DemocratMay 20, 2013 

— The sale or purchase of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would be illegal under a bill approved Monday by an Illinois Senate committee.

The Senate's Executive Committee approved Senate Bill 1002 by a vote of 12-3. The bill now goes to the Senate floor. If approved there, it would go to the House.

Two parents of children killed by a gunman in December at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut gave testimony before the committee, asking for approval of the bill.

Parent Mark Barden said shooter Adam Lanza "knew that by bringing the high-capacity magazines, he could kill a lot more people, and he did." Parent Nicole Hockley said Lanza "chose to have the best kill rate possible by using high-capacity magazines."

The bill would allow Illinoisans who already own such magazines to keep them, but it would be illegal for Illinoisans to buy or sell them. And it would allow a judge to increase or even double the sentence of a defendant convicted of using such a magazine in certain gun-related crimes.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde testified that the bill would effectively ban a number of popular models of guns -- "some of them made famous by John Wayne and Chuck Connors" -- because their standard features include magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Vandermyde said high-capacity magazines are used by police to protect themselves and their families, as well as by guards who protect the governor.

"Why is my family worth any less?" he asked.

Jay Keller, a representative of the Illinois Firearm Manufacturers Association, said there are 65 gun-makers in the state, with 8,500 employees. Some of them will consider leaving if the bill passes, Keller said.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, told Keller the manufacturers wouldn't lose much business because they still could sell such magazines to residents of other states.

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said he understands if gun manufacturers in Illinois feel they're "under seige," but added: "I think there's a chance that this bill could save lives, and I think it's worth taking that chance."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, said the legislation's intent is to make it illegal for anyone, even out-of-state sellers, to sell a high-capacity magazine to an Illinoisan. Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, questioned how that provision could be enforced. Righter also questioned why the movie industry is being given an exemption in the bill, when some experts say violent movies contribute to gun crimes.

Kotowski said the bill is "not 100 percent perfect" but will help save lives.

Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said the argument about saving lives "sounds good, but where do you draw the line?" Lowering the speed limit to 45 mph would save thousands of lives, he said.

"If you have a four-shot magazine, you could really save some lives, I guess, but where do you draw the line?" Luechtefeld said.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports the legislation. He held a news conference on Sunday with the Sandy Hook parents, where he urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

"Today, we took the first step towards banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines in Illinois, which will make our communities safer. By adopting Senate Bill 1002, Illinois would join 10 other states across the country that put reasonable restrictions on the size of these weapons," Quinn said Monday.

He added, "Over the past two days we have heard first-hand about the horrifying damage that high-capacity ammunition magazines can inflict. I am incredibly grateful to the Sandy Hook Elementary parents who have traveled to Illinois to share their stories and lend their voices to this important mission. We must work together on responsible gun laws to help ensure that what happened in Tucson, Ariz.; Aurora, Colo.; and Newtown, Conn.; does not ever happen here."

How metro-east senators on the committee voted:

* Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Yes

* Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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