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Quinn: ‘No place in ... Illinois’ for weapons that rapidly fire at others

Tim McCarthy OrlPark Police Chief former Secret Service agent who was wounded protecting President Ronald Reagan 1981 makes point alongside

Tim McCarthy, Orland Park Police Chief and former Secret Service agent who was wounded protecting President Ronald Reagan in 1981 makes a point alongside Governor Pat Quinn as Quinn prepped the media on his plans to return Senate Bill 681 with specific recommendations for change, as in proposing to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in the state of Illinois. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 2, 2012 6:13AM

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn rekindled an old political battle in Illinois Tuesday by rewriting legislation in a way to ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, opening himself up to GOP criticism that he’s exploiting the Colorado massacre that left 12 dead.

“There is no place in the state of Illinois for weapons designed to rapidly fire at human targets at close range,” Quinn wrote in a letter to state lawmakers in which he advocated turning the sale or possession of such weapons and ammunition into felonies.

Speaking later Tuesday afternoon, Quinn drew a direct link to the July 20 shootings that claimed the lives of a dozen moviegoers and left 58 others wounded at a suburban theater outside Denver, saying that he didn’t “think there is any question ... that all of those who lost their lives in Aurora, Colorado — all 12 — and all those who were injured, that they want us to take action.”

He urged lawmakers to “remember those who lost their lives” and “do something about these assault weapons and these large capacity magazines that go with them.”

The governor used his amendatory veto authority to rewrite National Rifle Association-backed legislation that had passed overwhelmingly last spring to permit Illinois gun owners to buy ammunition from in-state manufacturers or retailers and have it shipped to their homes.

Current law permits that practice only if the ammunition manufacturers or retailers are out of state.

There’s little likelihood that Quinn’s move will see the legislative light of day because the bill’s underlying sponsor and gun-rights advocate, state Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), controls whether to accept the governor’s rewrite.

Luechtefeld said he intends to seek an override of Quinn’s amendatory veto. But the Downstate lawmaker conceded that override could fail because Chicago Democrats and targeted lawmakers undoubtedly will be wary of supporting an override that could be cast in an election year as a pro-assault weapons vote.

But that vote could also end up killing the entire bill.

Luechtefeld also accused Quinn of trying to take political advantage of the Aurora shootings, where an assailant used an assault weapon.

“He likely knows this won’t go anyplace,” Luechtefeld said of Quinn. “But because of what happened in Colorado, he’s going to exploit that as much as he can.”

Quinn disputed that, saying his first duty was to the public safety of Illinois citizens. He was supported Tuesday by Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy, a former secret service agent who took a bullet for President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and who now heads the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.

Appearing beside Quinn at a downtown news conference, McCarthy said that criminals including gang and drug cartel members are increasingly using assault rifles and large ammunition magazines. While “no law can solve every problem,” he said, “this law will help law enforcement protect citizens.”

To override Quinn’s amendatory veto, Luechtefeld would need 36 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House, where House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) traditionally blocks such wholesale rewrites of legislation by governors.

If those supermajorities aren’t reached and there is not a majority vote in each chamber to accept Quinn’s changes, the underlying bill will die, along with the governor’s proposed bans on the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Legislation banning assault weapons has never gotten out of the gate in Illinois.

A bill is pending in the Illinois House but never reached the floor. The last time that happened was in 2005 when legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and backed by impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich failed in a 57-58 vote. Sixty votes were necessary to pass the legislation.

In the 1990s, former Gov. Jim Edgar embraced an assault weapons ban, filming a campaign commercial in his 1994 campaign advocating it.

But Edgar abandoned the plan after Madigan repeatedly brought the bill up for a vote only to have it fail in his chamber, and former Senate President James “Pate” Philip (R-Wood Dale) never allowed a vote on Edgar’s plan in the GOP-led Senate.

In his letter urging a rewrite of Luechtefeld’s bill, Quinn described himself as a “strong supporter” of the Second Amendment but pointed to California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York as states that ban assault weapons.

“The proliferation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines undermines public safety and the right of personal security of every citizen,” Quinn wrote.

His amendatory veto would allow existing owners of assault rifles to keep them, as long as they are registered with state police within 90 days of the law taking effect.

Contributing: Kim Janssen

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