Illinois Has Banned Assault Weapons Six Months After The 4th Of July Parade Shooting In Highland Park

The law, which bans the sale, delivery, manufacture, and purchase of assault weapons, comes six months after a 21-year-old man opened fire at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.

Illinois passed an assault weapons ban on Tuesday, forbidding the delivery, sale, manufacture, and purchase of any assault weapons.

This comes six months after a 21-year-old man opened fire on a crowd during a 4th of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and injuring more than 40 others. Authorities said more than 70 bullets were fired from a rooftop during the attack.

The Protect Illinois Communities Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker Tuesday night, outlaws the sale, delivery, manufacture, and purchase of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the state. Per the law, long guns will be limited to 10 rounds per magazine, and handguns won't be able to have more than 15 rounds. The law also bans the possession of attachments that increase the firing rate of semiautomatic weapons.

The ban also aims to expedite the start of universal background checks and broadens the state's "red flag" law. The law in Illinois had previously allowed a court to take weapons away from someone deemed a danger to others or themselves for six months, but the new law changes that to one year.

Current owners of assault weapons will be able to keep their weapons, but they will have to register them with the Illinois State Police.

"We know that gun violence is an epidemic and an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans agree that the time for common-sense reform is now," Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "Delivering on this promise — the promise to remove these weapons of war from our parks, our schools, our movie theatres, churches, and communities throughout Illinois — will remain one of my proudest achievements as Speaker of the House."

The original bill passed the Illinois House on Friday, and then an amended version passed in the state Senate on Monday night. The amended version was sent back to the House on Tuesday and passed that vote.

"After continued negotiations between the leaders, stakeholders, and advocates, we have reached a deal on one of the strongest assault weapons bans in the country," Pritzker and Welch said in a joint statement. "Gun violence is an epidemic that is plaguing every corner of this state, and the people of Illinois are demanding substantive action."

The lead sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Bob Morgan, attended the parade in Highland Park.

"Any individual or family or community that has experienced gun violence understands what it means and the trauma and the ripple effect in their lives and their families and their futures," Morgan told ABC 7 last week. "This will save many, many lives. The states that have adopted assault weapon bans and high-capacity magazine bans have seen a drop in gun deaths and gun violence."

On Monday, Highland Park parade shooting survivor Ashbey Beasley testified in front of the lawmakers to advocate for the new ban. She and her 6-year-old son, Beau, attended the parade on July 4, 2022.

In the hearing, Beasley reportedly played a phone recording of her son's screams as they both tried to escape the chaos while the shooter was spraying the crowd with bullets.

"What's happening? What's happening? What's happening?" Beau screams in the audio clip.

"This is what it sounds like when a child runs from an assault weapon," Beasley told the lawmakers. "This is what happens when a child goes to a parade in our country. This is the sound of the loss of innocence."

Gun control advocates have turned out to support the law, as have dozens of doctors.

"No politician in the country knows what it feels like to tell someone the person they love the most in the world is not coming back because of gun violence," Dr. Tanya Zakrison, a critical trauma surgeon with University of Chicago hospitals, told ABC 7.

Despite the support, other gun control advocates have voiced some concerns. Stephanie Kollmann, director of policy at Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center, criticized the law's heavy criminal penalties in an interview with WCIA.

Kollmann said gun possession arrests and penalties are already the "most racially disproportionate in the state" due to "geographic differences in enforcement" and "policing differences in different neighborhoods."

People who live in urban areas and who are not white often receive heavier criminal penalties for possessing a gun without a license than their white counterparts, she said.

"That disparity will only increase with a bill like this," Kollmann said.

The Illinois State Rifle Association has vowed to advocate for the repeal of the law, as well as consider litigation against the bill.

Eight states — California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, and Massachusetts — plus the District of Columbia currently have laws that generally ban the sale, manufacture, and transfer of assault weapons. Illinois is now the ninth.

Gun violence in the US is a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. In 2022, roughly 44,000 people were killed by gun violence, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

"Every time a weapon of war is used to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time, we mourn the lives lost and communities shattered," Pritzker said in a statement before the Senate voted on the bill.

"Enough is enough."

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