CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois lawmakers are discussing ways to curb gun violence and are inviting communities to take part in the conversation.
On Thursday, the State House Judiciary Committee heard more on the topic of banning assault style weapons in the state, during its second public hearing on House Bill 5855.
The bill, also known as, the Protect Illinois Communities Act, is spearheaded by State Representative Bob Morgan. It proposes banning the manufacturing, delivery, selling, and purchasing of assault style weapons, including AR-15 Rifles.
It would also raise the age to get a FOID card from 18 to 21-years-old and it proposes methods to crack down on illegal firearms and drug trafficking.
Despite the name, the Protect Illinois Communities Act, some critics said it doesn’t provide much protection.
“That’s my first emotion was so sad, people dead in the floor,” Abraham Avalos, Waukegan resident, said.
Avalos fought back tears during his testimony, Thursday, describing memories from the Highland Park 4th of July mass shooting.
He said he’s a member of multiple pro-gun groups and said although he knew something had to be done about gun violence after the Highland Park shooting, he doesn’t support House Bill 5855. He said the bill might not have even prevented the shooting.
“Maybe he [the shooter] would have chosen a different weapon,” Avalos said. “But the evil is still there in his mind and his heart.”
Few others agreed with Avalos at the hearing, some even said the proposal is unconstitutional.
“It doesn’t protect citizens in an immediate or possible long-term and it doesn’t reinforce current laws or regulations already in place,” Andrew Guadarrama, a Chicago resident, said.
But a majority of those who testified, including advocacy groups, researchers, grassroots organizations, community outreach workers, parents and gun violence survivors, all embraced this proposal for possible change.
Maria Pike, a member of Moms Demand Action, lost her son to gun violence and said the contents of House Bill 5855 could have made a difference in recent mass shootings.
“When we’re talking about the assault weapons ban we talk about also large capacity magazines because that could have saved lives in Highland Park,” Pike said. “Because the person had to reload at least two more times to achieve what he achieved with a 30-bullet magazine.”
Supporters also said this bill is a step in the right direction, but it’s not an overall solution to the problem.
They said more resources and funding for community outreach groups and violence prevention are needed throughout the state.
“I’m all for the ban of assault weapons. I wish all guns is off the streets, but that’s not reality,” Joseph Sanders, a Chicago resident, said. “More than anything we need resources to prevent these acts, these violent acts.”
State leaders said there will be more hearings on this topic next week when Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly is expected to testify.
Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill next month.