Understanding the Legislative Hopper of Gun Control Legislation

What Congress does not advance as promised, the state of Illinois attempted to do.  While United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA, D) had promised to deliver proposed legislation for an assault weapon ban last week, business on the Hill closed on Friday without any such bill emerging. 

Burbling farther down the list of headlines was activity in the Illinois General Assembly (its legislative branch) that some were criticizing would exceed the boundaries of the Second Amendment and the United States Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008).

While the week ended both in Washington and in Illinois without any proposed legislation reaching the floor for votes, it was an early indication that we could be headed for the greatest swell of gun and ammunition political debate in a decade. 

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a slow-motion look at the essential elements of potential gun control legislation in Illinois.  This simple walk-through will provide you with an outline of factors you can consider in any state to assess the status and viability of proposed legislation.

Legislation nutshell.  The Public Health Committee of the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 approved two Bills that would ban assault weapons and high capacity clips.  One Senate Bill would ban the possession, delivery, sale, and transfer several types of assault weapons, including semi-automatic firearms and high-caliber rifles.  The other Senate Bill would ban ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. 

Legislation status.  Having passed Committee, the Bills could have been brought to the floor for a full vote of the Illinois Senate.  But, Thursday, January 3, Illinois Senate recessed its term without voting on either Bill.  Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton (D) indicated to The Southern Illinoisan that the measures would be reconsidered some time after 98th Session of the Illinois General Assembly begins January 9. 

Legislative history.  There have been several failed attempts in prior years in the Illinois General Assembly to pass different versions of gun and ammunition control legislation.

Legislature (composition).  The 59 seat Illinois Senate has a Democratic majority at 35 seats to a Republican minority of 24 seats.  The Illinois House of Representatives would then have to review and pass Bill 815 and Bill 1263.  The Speaker of the Illinois House is Michael J. Madigan (D), and he leads a Democratic majority of 64 out of 118 seats.  The Republicans hold 53 seats.

Executive.  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) supports gun control measures.  He speaks publicly about his opinion and he has used executive measures such as the “amendatory veto” to try to advance his restrictive position.

Jobs.  There are numerous gun manufacturers in Illinois, including ArmaLite, D.S. Arms, Lewis Machine & Tool Company, Rock River Arms, and Springfield Armory USA. 

Firearms statistics.  The FBI reports that as of March 2012, there are 112,931 firearms registered in Illinois, of which 24,651 were machine guns.  The FBI defines “machinegun” as “…any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”  Illinois is ranked fifth in the nation for registered machinegun owners.

Relevant events.  Illinois is one of the states to experience a school shooting.  On February 14, 2008, six people were killed at the Northern Illinois University.

Through this selection of information you can see a simple legislative metric, which you can consider for any other state.  If you manufacture, distribute or sell firearms it will be important to monitor proposed legislation that could impact your business operations and your compliance programs.  Now that the conversation has begun on the Hill and with states saying they will do what Washington won’t, like it or not, it’s time to tune your dial to the political news of the day.