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Assault weapons ban hits snag

Assault weapons ban hits snag

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SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod Blagojevich's renewed push for a statewide ban on assault weapons may not be called for a vote this spring.

On Monday, one of his top allies in the General Assembly said the issue might be just too contentious to move forward before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the spring on April 7.

"I don't think anything will happen with that," said Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, who is co-chairman of the governor's re-election effort. "It would be very difficult to pass that over here."

That assessment comes just five weeks after Blagojevich made the assault weapons ban a cornerstone of his State of the State speech.

A federal ban on the weapons expired in September 2004 and Blagojevich wants Illinois lawmakers to approve legislation to ban the manufacture, possession and delivery of semiautomatic assault weapons, assault weapons attachments, large capacity ammunition feeding devices and the .50 caliber rifle.

An attempt to pass a state version of the federal law in May 2005 fell short in the Illinois House by three votes.

Since then, supporters have been working to craft amendments to the legislation aimed at securing votes for the proposal. Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said backers of the ban want to make sure they have enough support before it is called for another vote.

"It's going to be a close vote either way," said Brown.

Gun rights advocates have argued that the federal assault weapons ban didn't have any effect on national crime rates. They also have argued that such a ban would hurt hunters, sportsmen and gun collectors.

But Blagojevich and many Chicago-area lawmakers say the guns affected by the ban are better suited for military combat, not hunting.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said Monday that the governor continues to play an active role in promoting the ban.

"We're doing everything we can to pass it," Rausch said. "We feel very strongly about the ban."

Jones said his belief that the measure will not come up for a vote this spring was not because it is an election year. But, he acknowledged, "You've got some members who… are against any gun control."

State Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, who has been an avid supporter of the ban, said the legislation may be better suited to be voted on in the fall veto session or next spring, when it is not an election year.

"I'm predicting that as a result of the election there will be more people willing to vote for reasonable gun control measures, so that next year we will have a better chance to pass it," said Cullerton.

Kurt Erickson can be reached at or 217-782-1249


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