The first of several hearings on a proposed bill that would ban certain firearms and magazines in Illinois focused on victims and public health officials advocating for the bill’s passage.
State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, advanced out of committee his resolution recognizing the Highland Park mass shooting where seven people were killed and dozens were injured on July 4.
“And whereas law enforcement officers from Highland Park and hundreds, hundreds of others from throughout the state of Illinois at all levels of government worked together to quickly secure downtown Highland Park and later apprehend the suspect,” Morgan said.
Also Monday, the committee held a subject matter hearing on Morgan’s House Bill 5855, which would ban about 100 different types of semi-automatic firearms and magazines with more than 10 rounds.
Victims of gun violence and advocates supporting the measure testified, though no opponents of the measure did.
Second Amendment advocates said they would immediately file a lawsuit challenging the bill’s constitutionality if it were to become law.
Jaquie Algee from Chicago’s South Side lost a child to gun violence. She talked about disparities in response.
“We don’t have people rushing to give us therapy and counselors and people who will work with our children and our communities and people to help to recover from this pain,” Algee said.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering shared stories from the Highland Park parade mass shooting, including talking about how two-year-old Aiden McCarthy is still asking for his mom and dad, who both died shielding their only child.
Rotering called mass shootings “a uniquely American problem.”
“Among mayors and managers, there is the common refrain of “not if, but when” a mass shooting will come to their town. While we experienced unthinkable loss in Highland Park, mass shootings have happened throughout Illinois. They have occurred here in Chicago, in Aurora, in DeKalb, and this year alone also in Zion, East St. Louis, Yorkville, Waukegan, Decatur, Wheeling, Rockford, Crest Hill, North Chicago, Romeoville, Elgin, Joliet, and Peoria. This is a list that should not exist,” Rotering said.
Rotering acknowledged that banning high-powered weapons and large-capacity magazines will not completely stop all gun violence.
“[…] banning weapons of war is one common-sense step we can take. It is worth it even if one life is saved,” she said.
Trauma worker Imad Saadeh said guns are one issue, but there are other things that need to happen other than just gun regulations.
“We need to invest in these communities,” Saadeh said. “There’s a problem, an illness that has been neglected and still is neglected and that is mental illness.”
Public health officials said gun restrictions are necessary, including expanding the firearms restraining order from six months to a full year as Morgan’s bill would do.
Representatives from Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago also advocated for increasing the age to get a Firearm Owner’s Identification card to 21.
State Rep. Denyse Stoneback said even more should be done.
“We absolutely need to look at strengthening our … FOID card system with mandatory fingerprints,” Stoneback said.
There were 12,800 witness slips filed by Monday in support of Morgan’s bill.
More than 19,500 slips were opposed but no opponents of the bill were heard during the committee.
The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday where a new round of witness slips are being compiled.
The Center Square and Lake and McHenry County Scanner both contributed to this report.