Eye On Illinois: Gun regulations likely a leading Statehouse topic in 2023


We try not to get too deep into the predictions game over here, but put this one in ink: Gov. JB Pritzker will sign an assault weapons ban in the next 55 weeks.

Whether it will be the best legislation for Illinois and whether it will survive judicial review are different discussions. The conditions have materialized: Democrats won big in November and don’t face voters again until late 2024. The White House has pushed for stronger reforms. Spree killings have not abated, here or throughout the country.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

On Dec. 1, state Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, introduced House Bill 5855. Known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act, the legislation already has 31 co-sponsors. I won’t presume to suggest the bill as written can find enough votes in a lame duck session next month, but it wouldn’t be unheard of, given that was the stage set for the 2021 passage of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act.

The story of the SAFE-T Act provides the confidence needed to say Morgan’s bill – or something functionally similar – will find sufficient support in the General Assembly’s Democratic supermajorities. Like ending cash bail or enhancing police accountability, an assault weapons ban will infuriate most ardent Republican voters, face fierce opposition from officials like county sheriffs and prosecutors and still make it to Pritzker’s desk.

The legal challenges are inevitable, so the interesting aspect from a policy standpoint is the degree to which Illinois Democrats craft their proposals to the realities of federal court opinions addressing similar attempts to enact regulations on citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

A personal pet project will be following lawmakers decrying gun regulations in favor of mental health advocacy to ensure they vote accordingly. The state badly needs improved access to reliable professional care. While legislation can have significant positive influence, strides in that direction routinely meet opposition.

IN MEMORIAM: Seldom have I seen in the state political sphere such an instant outpouring of raw emotion than following the untimely death of state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, who succumbed to complications from a large brain tumor Friday. Reading through the statements Rich Miller compiled at his Capitol Fax blog (CapitolFax.com), as well as his Twitter posts and reader comments, was a moving, wrenching way to begin processing the loss of a 45-year-old husband and father who clearly leaves a gaping hole in his home, community and the Statehouse.

ON THIS DAY: Happy 204th birthday to Mary Todd Lincoln, a fascinating figure in state and national history who experienced almost unthinkable trauma in her 63 years before dying at the Springfield home of her sister, Elizabeth Edwards, almost 40 years after marrying the future president and a bit more than 17 years after his assassination.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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December 13, 2022 at 05:09AM

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