The Future of Gun Laws

E-newsletter Issue #107 | January 31, 2013

Rep. Kelly Cassidy doesn’t have to go far from her office in Springfield to understand the deep division over gun control and gun owner rights in Illinois.

Her suitemate inside the state capitol is not only a fellow legislator, but a fellow member of the House Democratic Caucus. She represents a part of Chicago; he represents a part of downstate Illinois.

They respect each other and can find agreement on many issues, but not when it comes to what to do about the state’s gun laws.

“We live in two different worlds,” she said.

From her perspective, more has to be done about gun violence, and part of the answer lies in new laws that aim to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of criminals.

In her North Side district, she said, shots are heard so regularly at night that some have made a game out of the noise: guns or fireworks?

Last year alone, more than 500 homicides were committed in Chicago. Those statistics, along with the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., helped lead lawmakers to consider several changes to the state’s laws at the end of 2012. 

House Bill 1263 called for a ban on certain types of semiautomatic weapons. House Bill 815 would have barred ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

One of Cassidy’s top priorities is to crack down on straw gun purchases—cases in which someone buys a gun for an individual unable to purchase it to due to a criminal background or other reasons. Many of the guns found at Chicago crime scenes have been traced back to local gun shops, where straw purchasers likely bought the weapons, Cassidy said.

She wants to require gun owners to report a lost or stolen gun. Not doing so would be a felony, thus creating a state penalty aimed at straw purchasers.

Lawmakers also have considered a proposal (House Bill 5831) backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to establish a handgun registry.

But efforts in Illinois to change or tighten gun laws have thus far fallen short.

Illinois will be one of the states to watch in 2013 in a national debate over guns that will play out in state capitols across the country.

Over the past decade in the Midwest, changes in state gun laws have tilted in favor of gun-rights advocates. In 2002, for example, five states prohibited people from carrying concealed weapons. Today, Illinois is the lone “no issue” state, and it may soon be forced to pass a concealed-carry law as the result of a recent federal court ruling.

Last year, South Dakota came close to becoming the Midwest’s first constitutional-carry state—no permit needed to carry concealed weapons. House Bill 1248 passed the legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

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