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Illinois House advances assault weapons ban, but short on votes to pass bill

An AR-15

An AR-15

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Updated: April 7, 2013 1:34PM

SPRINGFIELD — In a series of test votes Tuesday, the Illinois House advanced legislation that would ban semi-automatic “assault” weapons in the state but did not provide enough support to pass the bill as law.

The series of legislative measures would ban popular rifles such as the AR-15 and the AK-47 along with certain types of weapon attachments and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The measure sparked heated dialogue between Chicago gun-control advocates seeking a solution to an unprecedented murder rate in their city and Downstate pro-gun members looking to protect what they view as a constitutional right.

“What we have here today is just a full-out attempt to ban every gun in this state,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), who sponsors concealed-carry legislation backed by the National Rifle Association. “More than anything, we’re really going after the law-abiding gun owner and going after the sportsman.

On the other side of the issue, Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), who sponsors part of the assault weapons ban legislation, reminded his colleagues of the recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newton, Conn.

“These weapons are not for hunting,” Acevedo said. “These weapons are meant for mass destruction. It’s to kill. Remember that it’s to kill a group of individuals all at one time.”

While members voted to add the measures to an overall bill, the closest any vote came to meeting the minimum 60 votes needed for a bill to pass in the House was still two votes shy. The legislation cannot become law until the House passes the entire adopted piece of legislation, which is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

The speaker scheduled Tuesday’s debate as part of a “weekly order of business,” the same way he was able to call last week’s lengthy concealed-carry debate. As in that session, the Republican caucus and a few Democrats decided to sit out on the voting, with several denouncing the process as a political stunt.

“This is week number two or three of an entire system that is flawed,” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst). “It is dismissive of how we should be putting legislation together. It’s like putting Legos together with no real purpose but to find out what we did in the very end.”

Acevedo, who has been working on an assault weapons ban for more than a decade, said he thinks the method at work in the House is appropriate.

“Lets do the process,” he said. “If it’s slow, it’s fine. But don’t call this a game. This is our government at work.

“And if they’re so dead set against it, vote. Why not vote at all? You’re here. Vote. Put your true colors on the table. Simple as that.”

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