CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka urging her to change her position and support a statewide assault weapons ban. The Governor believes Topinka, as the only republican statewide officer holder, can help convince republican lawmakers to vote for the ban. The Governor’s letter follows a lobbying effort at the State Capitol in Springfield on Thursday when he joined families of victims of assault weapons, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and other gun safety advocates today to call on the Illinois General Assembly to pass a statewide assault weapons ban.
“I am writing today to urge you to change your position on the assault weapons ban and to use your influence and position as the state’s top Republican official to work with your fellow Republican members of the General Assembly to support the ban as well. As you know, we are only a few votes short of passing the assault weapons ban. The legislators who should be in a position to vote for the ban are Republican legislators from the Chicago suburbs whose constituents strongly support banning assault weapons. I know that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Illinois State Rifle Association are powerful special interests, but as public servants, it is our responsibility to put the safety of the people ahead of the demands of groups like the NRA and the Illinois State Rifle Association,” Governor Blagojevich wrote.
The ongoing effort to pass a statewide assault weapons ban intensified after the tragic murders this month of two young girls from Englewood. Police report 14-year-old Starkesia Reed and 10-year old Siretha White were both killed by gunfire from assault weapons that would be illegal to buy, own, or sell in Illinois under the proposed ban.
House Bill 2414, sponsored by state Rep. Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago), would prohibit the manufacture, possession, and delivery of semiautomatic assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and the .50 caliber rifle. Other banned weapons would include UZIs, Colt AR-15s, and TEC-DC9s.
Under the proposed legislation, possession of a .50 caliber rifle or assault weapon would be a Class 3 felony for a first violation, carrying a sentence of 2-5 years, and a Class 2 felony, carrying a sentence of 3-7 years, for a second or subsequent violation or for having 2 or more weapons at once.
Assault weapons fire bullets rapidly and can fire at multiple targets, making them ideal for military use. For example, the larger magazines allow a shooter to fire 20, 50, or even 100 rounds without having to reload. Assault weapons have a high level of firepower, can penetrate body armor, and therefore pose a significant threat to police as well as innocent bystanders.
In September 2004, leaders in Washington D.C. allowed the federal assault weapons ban to expire, despite promises from President Bush that he would renew the law. Since the federal ban was lifted, the Chicago Police Department has seized over 500 assault weapons, 400 in 2005 alone. In fact, just this past New Year’s Eve, the Chicago Police Department recovered 22 weapons, including an AK 47 and MAC 10 with a 30 round clip and a laser sight-weapon that would be banned statewide if lawmakers pass the pending measure.