Pritzker Quickly Signs Illinois Assault Weapons Ban Into Law: ‘We Got It Done’

Guns classified by Illinois as assault grade can no longer be sold in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law Tuesday night , hours after it passed the legislature on the final day of the General Assembly’s session, and roughly six months since the July 4 mass shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day parade that spurred momentum for the ban.

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“After nearly every mass shooting, we’ve seen efforts to ban dangerous weapons thwarted, and then leaders send their thoughts and prayers while they throw their hands up, resigning themselves to the idea that gun violence is a sacrifice that Americans must accept,” Pritzker said, describing the fight for gun control with the National Rifle Association as battling the “powerful forces of the pro-gun lobby.”

“On assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, victory has been elusive. That’s why today, I couldn't be prouder to say that we got it done,” he said.

Pritzker, who was flanked by victims of gun violence, including survivors from Highland Park during the bill signing ceremony and press conference in the Capitol rotunda, said he took the unusual step of signed the measure right away so that it could take immediate effect “and we can end the sale of these weapons of war as soon as possible.”

The law bans dozens of specific gun models including AR-15s, a popular gun that critics say should not be considered military-grade. That’s one of the many arguments gun-rights groups said they will make in court.

Groups like the Illinois State Rifle Association plan to immediately file a lawsuit, seeking to strike the law and to prevent it from ever taking effect.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Effingham, said they’ve got the U.S. Constitution on their side.

“A lot of you guys over there despise our founders and you casually cast aside the principles that this country was founded on. But our founding fathers, they knew what they were doing. See they had experienced the tyranny of the majority, and they vowed that that was never going to happen in our country,” Wilhour said.

Gun advocates also cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision.

Pritzker and other advocates say Illinois’ new law was drafted with Bruen and constitutional considerations in mind, while also seeking to remove combat-style “weapons of war” that have no place on American streets.

“Gun violence touches every corner of our state on a daily basis. I spent my entire career working to protect people from it. And sometimes it feels like we haven't even made it that,” Senate President Don Harmon said. “But today with this new law, we begin to push back against weapons whose only intention is to obliterate other human beings. On July 4, it was a stark reminder of the horror that these weapons can unleash.”

Those who currently own guns enumerated in the law can keep them, but they must register the serial numbers with the state.

Many gun owners, including members of the General Assembly and the GOP’s nominee for governor, state Sen. Darren Bailey, said they will not comply.

“I’ll die on my front porch before anyone takes my guns away. My message to Springfield: If you want my guns, come get them,” Bailey, of downstate Xenia, wrote in a tweet on Monday after the Senate’s approval of the package.

Pritzker called that “political grandstanding.”

“You don’t get to choose which laws you comply with in the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “But the reality is that the State Police is responsible for enforcement, as are all law enforcement all across this state. And they will in fact, do their job or they won’t be in there.

A single Republican, retiring House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, voted for the ban. Durkin, a former prosecutor, says he’s too often witnessed first-hand the impact of gun violence.

Unlike previous iterations of the measure, this one does not raise to 21 the age someone must be to have a state Firearm Owners Identification license; the age to own, buy and use a gun remains 18 for those with a valid FOID card.

Gun control groups had fought for a statewide ban for years but gained momentum after the Fourth of July mass shooting in Highland Park.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering called the law an important step, and says that while Illinois is no island and there should be a federal ban, the state’s action will make it “that much harder for someone with horrible intentions to obtain a combat weapon."

Signing the measure was Pritzker’s first official action of his second term.

Democrats spent Tuesday afternoon and evening passing a whirlwind of other legislation, including legal and insurance protections for out-of-state residents who come to have or to provide an abortion (HB4664), a package of incentives meant to lure or keep electric vehicle production companies in Illinois, and a requirement that all Illinois employers offer at minimum five days of paid leave for workers (SB208).

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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