On Monday night, the city council of Highland Park, Illinois, voted by a margin of 6-1 to adopt an outright ban on so-called military-style ‘assault weapons’ and ‘high-capacity’ magazines as a means to protect the public and save lives in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mirrored after Cook County’s own legislation that also bans semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and certain cosmetic features (pistol grip, barrel shroud, etc.) and 30-round magazines, the new ordinance requires law-abiding gun owners to turn these items over to the police for disposal, remove them from city limits or modify them so that they meet the restrictions under the law.
Responsible gun owners have 90 days to comply. If gun owners fail to comply, they could be charged with a misdemeanor that would include six months in jail or a fine not to exceed $1,000 — upon conviction.
The timing of the decision to ban commonly owned firearms and firearm-related accessories comes as Gov. Pat Quinn is deliberating over whether to sign or veto House Bill 183: the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, which would legalize concealed carry in the Land of Lincoln.
Additionally, the concealed carry bill contains a clause that allows cities and municipalities to pass restrictions on gun ownership provided that they do so within 10 days after Quinn signs the bill (assuming that he does). Given that the deadline is July 9 for Quinn to pen the bill, the Highland Park city council thought it best to act fast.
Reactions to the ban were mixed. Some residents believed that council members made the right call while others saw it as an infringement on their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Former City Councilwoman Sally Higginson, who now works as a columnist for Patch.com, spoke at the community forum on Monday night.
“The argument that owning an assault weapon leads to greater security is specious,” she said. “In fact, owning a weapon in order to use it for self-protection is not self-defense. It is vigilante law enforcement. That makes for entertaining movies and a terrifying reality.”
Tom VandenBerk echoed Higginson’s sentiments. He saw the ban as a way to safeguard against a mass shooting like the one at Newtown.
“We do not need Sandy Hook in Highland Park,” VandenBerk said. “People are being slaughtered because of assault weapons, because of an unregulated industry that has taken over this country in fear.”
On the other side the debate was Councilman David Naftzger, who not only questioned the ban’s effectiveness but also it’s constitutionality, wondering how much taxpayer money would be spent fighting lawsuits that are likely to be filed by pro-gun organizations in court.
“But there’s no question in my mind about the specter of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of litigation costs” that the ordinance could generate, Naftzger told the Chicago Tribune.
“Those costs will necessarily have consequences for our city’s spending on public safety measures and other city priorities,” he added.
Yet, the costly and protracted legal battle that will ensue did not bother Highland Park resident Steve Sheffey.
“We in Highland Park should be proud if this ordinance is challenged, and we should be proud that our tax dollars are spent defending an ordinance that was designed to protect our families, our children, and our community,” Sheffey said. “There is no legitimate reason for anyone to own an assault weapon. The sole purpose of assault weapons is to kill people.”
[Cover image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune]