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Dem State 'Trifectas' Eye New Gun Controls, GOP Pushes Legal Carrying

Gun safety legislation remains a top issue in statehouses, some five years after the Parkland, Fl., mass school shooting inspired a new movement against the firearms lobby.

Democratic lawmakers, some bolstered by so-called trifectas — or control of the governor’s office and both legislative chambers — are eager to pass new bans on semi-automatic rifles, while also enacting red flag laws and background checks to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially violent people.

Republican legislators with strong majorities want their states to join the 25 that already allow residents to carry firearms without a permit, what proponents call “constitutional carry” laws. Over the past five years, 11 states have enacted such laws, Stateline reports.

Illinois lawmakers wasted no time in the new legislative session, taking just five days to pass major gun safety measures that include a ban on semi-automatic rifles, high-capacity magazines and gun attachments that simulate automatic fire.

In signing the legislation, which got a few Republican votes, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said he wanted to “end the sale of these weapons of war,” rejecting warnings from GOP lawmakers and gun rights advocates who argued the measure was overreaching and unconstitutional. Dozens of county sheriffs have pledged not to enforce the law.

“Illinois now officially prohibits the sale and distribution of these mass killing machines and rapid fire devices,” Pritzker said at the bill signing ceremony. Democrats hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature.

Illinois is the ninth state to ban semi-automatic rifles — sometimes called assault weapons. The law comes six months after a gunman opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, north of Chicago. The gunman used an AR-style semi-automatic rifle, killing seven people and injuring 48 others.

For Michigan Democrats, the current session means a rare opportunity to pass gun safety bills after years of Republican legislative control. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who won reelection in November, called for legislation in her inaugural address.

Democratic state Sen. Rosemary Bayer is sponsoring legislation that would make Michigan the 20th state to implement a red flag law that would allow family members, a partner or the police to petition a court to confiscate firearms from those who might harm themselves or others.

She also is supporting measures that would require comprehensive background checks for gun purchases and the safe storage of firearms. All three measures have a chance to pass with a few Republicans supporting them, Bayer said.

“The No. 1 cause of death for children and young adults is firearms; there shouldn’t be any other statement needed after that,” she told Stateline. “We are going to fix this problem. We’re trying to make it safer for us, especially our little kids in kindergarten who are afraid to go to school.”

In October, a teenager killed four students at Oxford High School in southeastern Michigan, which bolstered Bayer’s desire to pass meaningful gun safety legislation.

When she knocked on 11,000 doors before the election last year, Bayer heard from voters whose biggest priority was abortion rights. Gun violence was the second-highest priority. I

Democrats shouldn’t “misread their mandate,” said Brenden Boudreau of Great Lakes Gun Rights, a Grand Rapids, Mi.-based advocacy group. Boudreau warned there could be political pushback from voters if lawmakers overreach on policies that don’t prevent crime.

Boudreau said he thinks judicial hearings that allow law enforcement to seize weapons before a gun owner can offer a defense in court is a violation of constitutional rights.

Minnesota Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would fund urban gun violence protection programs and would require safe firearm storage and the reporting of a lost or stolen gun.

State Rep. Dave Pinto said, these measures are “just so reasonable.” As a prosecutor who has handled cases involving domestic assault and violence against women, he sees the impact of guns in his work every day. "If we have someone who has shown themselves to be a danger to society,” he said, “we should be taking steps to keep guns out of their hands.”


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