By Ray Long and Monique Garcia
1:26 PM EDT, July 31, 2012
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn is renewing a push in Illinois to ban assault weapons in the wake of the killings at a Colorado theater that left 12 dead and dozens more wounded.
The Democratic governor also revealed plans today to propose a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines in Illinois.
He said in a letter to all state lawmakers that he supports the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but the "proliferation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines undermines public safety and the right of personal security of every citizen."
The proposal comes in the form of an amendatory veto of a bill that he is sending back to lawmakers to consider whether to support or reject. Even in the wake of the Colorado shootings, Quinn will find himself with a tough sell in a legislature that is so deeply divided over guns that no major pro-gun or anti-gun legislation has moved forward for years.
In recent years, Chicago Democrats have turned out in favor of gun control while Downstate Democrats and Republicans have fought off any proposal that they fear could lead to restrictions on hunting rights. Some Democratic leaders also have also viewed gun control as a wedge issue in suburban elections, where Republicans have split on the issue.
Still pending in the legislature is a bill to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons, an issue that has gained traction in recent years as all other states have enacted some form of such a law. But Chicago forces, backed for years by Mayor Richard Daley and now by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have resisted efforts to loosen Illinois gun laws.
Quinn, in his letter to lawmakers, noted that anyone with a firearms identification card in Illinois is permitted to buy an assault weapon and that Illinois does not restrict the purchase or possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
He also noted that California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, all states with major cities and densely populated urban areas, have bans similar to what he is proposing.
"Banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines will make Illinois a safer place to live," Quinn wrote.
The Colorado shooting suspect, James Holmes, is charged with 140 counts of murder or attempted murder in the July 20 rampage at the opening of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo. One of the victims of the shootings was John Larimer of Crystal Lake. Larimer, 27, was a Navy intelligence technician who died while shielding his girlfriend from gunfire.
The sponsor of the measure Quinn re-wrote said he is "disappointed" by the governor's move because it puts the original legislation in jeopardy. Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said the measure was designed to allow Illinois residents to buy ammunition through the mail, something that is already allowed in other states. Luechtefeld said if Quinn wants to ban assault weapons, he should have introduced a separate bill to do so.
"This is something that was supported by Republicans and Democrats across the state, and this makes it a very controversial bill all of a sudden," Luechtefeld said. "This is politically motivated. It's on people's minds right now because of what happened in Colorado, and the governor wants a piece of the publicity."
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