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Republican representatives from McHenry County split on gun control legislation

Illinois House endorses ban on bump stocks, age limit for gun purchases

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson shakes hands with Rep. Daniel J. Burke, D-Chicago, after new gun legislation – part of which is written and named in honor of slain 18th District Cmdr. Paul Bauer – passed a committee Tuesday in Springfield.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson shakes hands with Rep. Daniel J. Burke, D-Chicago, after new gun legislation – part of which is written and named in honor of slain 18th District Cmdr. Paul Bauer – passed a committee Tuesday in Springfield.

Republican state lawmakers from McHenry County were split when it came time to vote Wednesday, as the Democratic-majority Illinois House endorsed new gun control measures.

The House voted to prohibit the sale of bump stocks and “trigger cranks,” which increase rifles’ firing rates, effectively making them assault-style weapons.

Also approved was a ban on anyone younger than 21 buying assault-style weapons such as those used in the shooting deaths of 17 students in Parkland, Florida. And after a contentious debate, the House OK’d a Senate-approved measure for state licensing of gun dealers, which now goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The other proposals need Senate approval, but lawmakers expect quick action after this month’s violent incidents and public frustration only weeks before Illinois voters go to the polls March 20 for the primary election.

Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold would not tell his position on particular bills, but she signaled his support of a bump-stock ban and said he is encouraged by the “bipartisan conversation.”

“We will work with the General Assembly to keep guns out of the wrong hands, ban bump stocks, make our schools safer and work with law enforcement to protect our children and families,” Bold said.

Critics such as the Illinois State Rifle Association and a trade association of firearms dealers oppose the package, calling it overly broad, poorly written and, in some cases, a constitutional overreach.

The ban on bump stocks failed last fall, but on Wednesday, more than a dozen Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill.

Two of those were Rep. Steven Andersson, R-Geneva – whose district stretches into Huntley – and Rep. Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake. A call to Wheeler was not returned Wednesday evening.

Three other McHenry County representatives in Springfield voted against the bump-stock ban: Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee; and Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock.

Calling Wednesday’s series of debates and votes a “political spectacle,” McSweeney said lawmakers need to work toward increased punishment and restrictions for criminals who try to use guns to commit more crime.

McSweeney said he supports a ban on bump stocks, but he voted against doing so Wednesday in part because he said the measure will be weaker than the executive order President Donald Trump also proposed Wednesday – one that McSweeney said he supports.

He’s also in favor of more extensive background checks, and said he believes the focus needs to be shifted to individuals trying to use firearms, not the firearms themselves.

“That’s what we need to focus on,” McSweeney said. “We need to put criminals behind bars.”

As an example of a flawed correctional system, McSweeney pointed to a four-time convicted felon who has been charged with murder in the Feb. 13 shooting death of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.

“What was he still doing on the street?” said McSweeney, who added that he’s going to work on a bill that will make it tougher for people with signs of mental illness to get guns.

McSweeney said he’s worried Rauner will sign some or all of the bills endorsed by the House on Wednesday.

A call to Reick was not returned Wednesday night.

• The Associated Press
contributed to this story.

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