CHICAGO (CBS) — Buses loaded with vocal Chicagoans and religious leaders headed to the Illinois State Capitol on Wednesday, to urge the General Assembly to approve a package of gun control measures.
The proposed legislation cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday when it passed out of committee. The full House could vote on the bills on Wednesday.
A bus from Saint Sabina Church took a large group of parishioners and other gun control advocates to the statehouse to urge lawmakers to approve the measures. Cardinal Blase Cupich, who is leading the delegation, called the level of gun violence in America a moral crisis that demands action.
“It is now up to those that we elect to serve the common good, to act to stop the rampant gun violence that has turned our schools, our churches, theaters, and our streets into places of slaughter,” Cupich said after arriving in Springfield. “The time for words is over. Our children are telling us what is required now is action.”
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson traveled to the statehouse on Tuesday to argue for the passage of a variety of gun control measures, including one named after slain Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer. The bill would ban the sale of body armor and high-capacity ammunition magazines to anyone but police officers, security guards, and the military.
“This commonsense legislation would prohibit the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of high-capacity magazines greater than 10 rounds,” Johnson said.
Police and prosecutors have said Bauer was shot and killed by a four-time felon who was wearing a bulletproof vest, and carrying a 9 mm handgun with a 30-round magazine.
“While we can’t bring Commander Bauer back, we owe it to his family and friends to carry on his legacy by emulating what he did in life. That’s simply keeping the people that we serve safe,” Johnson said.
Other gun control measures under consideration in Springfield include restrictions on the sale of assault weapons, a requirement for gun dealers to obtain state licenses, stronger rules to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and a ban on bump stocks and other devices used to make guns fire more rapidly.
Todd Vandermyde, director of the Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, argued the measures would turn law-abiding citizens into criminals.
“When is enough enough? When are you going to go after the bad guys?” he said. “The individual that murdered Commander Bauer was a four-time felon with previous firearms charges, and even body armor charges; but our catch-and-release criminal justice system let him out on the street.”
Gun rights supporters said the legislation would require people under age 21 who already own military-style semi-automatic rifles to dispose of them within 90 days. Owners of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds also would have to get rid of them in 90 days.
Vandermyde questioned how the state would enforce the ban on high-capacity magazines, when many law-abiding gun collectors, hunters, and target shooters currently own many such clips. He estimated there are 2 million people in Illinois who have Firearm Owners Identification cards, the state permits required to own guns.
“In my estimation, I think you’re probably looking at somewhere between 15 and 25 million magazines sitting in the state of Illinois. How are you going to do that? Are you going to send men and women like the [police officers] behind me door to door to come to every FOID card holder and demand to see what we have? Is that where this is going?” he said. “That’s just unconscionable. That isn’t the Constitution I swore an oath to uphold and protect as a veteran of over 18 years of service.”
Critics have said the gun control measures amount to constitutional overreach that would turn law-abiding citizens into felons.