State Senate debates long and hard over gun legislation
After returning from an Illinois Senate walkout on March 14 in remembrance of the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, five Republican senators had something to say about Democrat-sponsored fire-arm legislation.
HB1465, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), bans the sale, delivery or possession of a .50 caliber rifle or .50 caliber cartridge to any Illinois resident under 21 effective 90 days after the bill enactment. The bill allows for four exclusions regarding affirmative defense including owning the firearm before the bill passage; or purchasing, traveling or residing with a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID) holder, or individual 21 or older.
The four exclusions brought up a few issues for Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline), who used the example of being under 21, using a firearm for self-protection while alone at home and then being charged as a felon for having the gun that was used to protect your life.
“Can the police arrest you,” Munoz told Anderson. “Yes, they could arrest you. But once you go to the state's attorney and prove you have a valid FOID card or the gun was purchased before this, that is where your affirmative defense would go into place.”
Anderson said Munoz’s answer sounded like “a violation of due process,” since the affirmative defense only applies if you have someone in the house who is over 21 while you used the gun for protection against an intruder.
“At 18-years-old, I lived on my own and owned guns,” Anderson said. “This is a concern for me because we are stripping someone’s right for them to defend themselves away simply because they are under the age of 21.”
Self-protection was secondary to competitive shooting for Sen. Chris Nybo (R-Lombard), who asked Munoz to recall a promise he made to Nybo to alter the bill language in reference to someone under the age of 21 using a gun in competition.
“To my understanding, you were willing to work on crafting an amendment that captured all such competitions, and didn’t confine those competitions to having to be sanctioned by the Olympic Committee or supervised by a certified instructor,” Nybo reminded Munoz, who said he would request the House Sponsor Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg) to do so.
Nybo said the process Democrats have used to pass legislation both parties vowed to work together on since the 2018 session started has been disappointing, specifically filing bills without being presented at hearings and filing substantial amendments 10 minutes before a hearing.
“Frankly, I think we can do better as a group working together to address these issues,” Nybo said. “What I would ask us to do not only today but for the rest of our legislative session and beyond is focus on our shared goal of making laws that make our community safer.”
As a former prosecutor, Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Champaign) said he was “compelled to correct the record” before the vote regarding affirmative defense and Munoz’s blasé comments concerning an unwarranted arrest for self-defense.
“Never mind the fact that you are an innocent person," Rose said. "You are in shackles, been taken to jail, been booked and your mugshot is on TV is not how affirmative defenses work.
He added that affirmative defenses are only made possible during a trial, which will likely cost time and attorney fees.
“But you as a citizen, can’t just go to talk to a prosecutor," Rose said. "You can’t just do that. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) said it is unacceptable that an innocent citizen who defends himself with a weapon could face criminal charges for having a firearm to do so, noting changes must be made to the bill for his support.
“As it stands right now, I am not sure that I can,” Oberweis said. “And I just want to emphasize what Senator Nybo said -- we all need to work together. I have said this before and I will say it again.”
Lastly, Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) closed out the debate, noting the reality of a state's attorney up for re-election and faced with the decision “to give back a high-capacity magazine in a high-profile case.”
“Everybody have faith in that,” Righter asked.
No is the answer, he added, addressing his next comment to Sen. Micahel Hastings (D-Frankfort).
“We know better than that and maybe the previous speaker feels that way because he is a Democrat and the Cook County State’s Attorney is a Democrat, but most people don’t have those connections.”
HB1465 passed 33-22 and will now be placed on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk.