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Highland Park votes 6-1 to ban assault weapons

Residents line up behind Daniel Easterday HighlPark speak about possible assault weapons ban HighlPark during Monday's City Council meeting. |

Residents line up behind Daniel Easterday, of Highland Park, to speak about a possible assault weapons ban in Highland Park during Monday's City Council meeting. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

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Deerfield public forum

When: Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m.

Where: Deerfield Village Hall, Council Chambers, 850 Waukegan Road

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Updated: June 25, 2013 2:14PM



Use it or lose it.

That was the reasoning behind the Highland Park City Council after it voted 6 to 1 to ban assault weapons this week, believed to be the first home-rule community to take such action. This will allow the city to have a law on the books that can be tweaked to be more stringent, or less, concerning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Next week in Deerfield a vote may be taken concerning the storage of assault weapons. The village recently had a public hearing on the issue where, like in Highland Park, passionate speakers came out against taking action.

“It has to do with more of the safe storage of it (assault weapons), not just a ban. Once it is there, it can be amended. We don’t know what’s going to happen. If you don’t do anything, you lose the right to do anything,” said State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who urged council members to vote for the ordinance Monday night, June 24. The ordinance uses the Cook County ordinance as a template, which bans assault weapons such as AK-47s, AR-10s and Uzis. It also bans pistols like the MAC-10 11 or MPA3 and Tec-9; and four different types of shotguns like the Armscor 30 BG; Striker 12 or the Streetsweeper, a shotgun with a revolving magazine. Large-capacity magazines are banned if they accept more than ten rounds of ammunition or detachable magazines that can be removed without any use of a tool.

The ordinance also gives anyone who owns such weapons or magazines 90 days to turn in their weapons for destruction by the police department. A violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by not more than six months imprisonment or a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000, or both.

News reports have indicated that Gov. Patrick Quinn could veto the conceal-carry law crafted by the state legislature or use an amendatory veto, but House Speaker Michael Madigan said in published reports he has the votes to override any veto. In December, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that legislators in Illinois had to produce legislation allowing for conceal carry of weapons. The state is the last in the nation not to have a conceal-carry law.

Drury believes the state should have stayed focused on just the conceal-carry aspect, but in an apparent bargain to gain enough votes, language was inserted to take away home-rule decisions on assault weapons 10 days after the measure is signed into law.

“This isn’t about the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms), this is about home rule and local control. They’ve (home-rule communities) have been put into a position that they have to act,” said Drury. “You’re going to see more towns talking about it,” he said, although some, like Deerfield, may just address the storage of assault weapons and not an outright ban.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said before the packed city council room at city hall that “My goal this evening is to address our community’s right to take representative action under home rule. What that action is, should be discussed in a timely, thoughtful manner.

“Unfortunately, the State of Illinois hasn’t provided us that opportunity. Failure to take action in the short term, results in an inability to take action in the long term,” she said. “Policy-making can be messy. But at the end of the day, this body was elected to represent the interests of this community,” said Rotering, who voted yes on the measure.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, like Drury, voted against the conceal-carry legislation. She urged council members to vote yes on their ordinance.

“Please do what the State of Illinois wouldn’t do, ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons,” she said.

The Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA), an affiliate of the  National Rifle Association, has been monitoring home-rule communities and said there were five communities with some sort of weapons ordinance on the agenda Monday night in the Chicago area. Other towns included Lake Bluff, Evanston, St. Charles, Park Ridge, Melrose Park, Marengo, West Chicago and Park Forest.

Earlier this month, towns, including Oswego and Waukegan, decided to put the issue into committee and that was what Mike Weisman, second vice president of the ISRA, thought Highland Park would do. “I half expected them to table it,” he said. He said a suit will be filed, he’s just not sure if it will be his group or another gun advocacy group.

“Defending it is going to be an expense,” Weisman said, something he has been bringing up at other meetings. His group held a meeting a few weeks ago to give members talking points to discuss with their community leaders. “I’ve seen proposed ordinances, but I haven’t seen a budget,” he said. A cover sheet on the Highland park ordinance handed out Monday night listed the financial impact of the ordinance as “none.”

But Councilman David Naftzger cited possible litigation as why he had to vote against the measure. It could cost the city thousands, even millions in “litigation costs, so for that reason I do not support this,” he said. Weisman said emphasizing the litigation costs has been part of their strategy to get home rule communities not to act on the measure.

“Heading them off now is cheaper then going to court later,” he said. He likened banning assault weapons similar to banning cars that look fast and he also said that banning AR-15 was going to cause problems. “That’s the fastest selling gun in the nation,” he said.

His group mobilized after Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon urged communities to move quickly in a letter to municipalities.

“Last month, the General Assembly for the first time voted to legalize the concealed carry of firearms in Illinois. As the governor prepares to act on the legislation sitting on his desk, it is important that our communities act now to retain the ability to regulate weapons that kill so many people so quickly.

“We have seen the tragic results assault weapons have had on our streets, in our schools, movie theaters and more. The clock is ticking, so I encourage mayors and local officials to act now to ban assault weapons and retain local control over this important issue,” she wrote.

The Tenth Congressional District Democrats also mobilized their supporters for the Highland Park meeting. In Lake Bluff Monday night, municipal leaders decided to take a wait-and-see approach on considering any local ordinance regulating possession and ownership of assault weapons in town.

“Lake Bluff sometimes wants to be at the forefront, I would suggest this time we step back,” Village President Kathy O’Hara said. Her comments at the close of a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night followed a presentation and discussion on the Illinois Firearms Concealed Carry Act and what other Illinois municipalities are doing.

During the discussion, trustees expressed frustration with the inaction by Illinois leaders. “It’s very disappointing that the state punted on this and put the onus on individual communities,” Trustee Brian Rener said, adding he wants to see what other communities are doing before making a decision.

Trustee William Meyer, a practicing attorney for 20 years, said he had “some pretty serious reservations” about having a “patchwork of laws across the state” on an issue as important as firearms. “I think the better approach is to have one rule for all the citizens of the state,” Meyer said. The board meets again July 8.

— Linda Blaser, Pioneer Press, contributed to this report



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