Eye On Illinois: Signed into law, Dems’ gun ban will continue to be a hot topic

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House Bill 5471.

That’s formal identifier for the Protect Illinois Communities Act, broadly described as an assault weapon sales ban.

It doesn’t have a fancy acronym like the SAFE-T Act of 2021′s lame duck session (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today; House Bill 3653 from the 101st General Assembly), but it’s going to rival that criminal justice omnibus reform package for attention and legal challenges over at least the next two years.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

If Democrats learned anything from the recently completed election cycle, it should be to get out in front of public perception on what their law does and doesn’t accomplish. Statistics might be helpful, but more important will be avoiding the missteps of bill language giving rise to legitimate confusion – not to mention bad-faith speculation – and forcing the need for trailer legislation. They also must fully fund the agencies tasked with enforcing new regulations.

There was bipartisan opposition to the package in both chambers, but statements from supporters clearly indicate intent to campaign on the perceived success going forward. That energy will run headlong into the reality that no singular legislation can eradicate gun (or any kind of) violence, and with that turn comes the endorsement opponents need to stake valid claims that gun control advocates won’t rest on these laurels.

In other words, consider Darren Bailey’s Monday tweet: “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.”

Nothing in HB 5471 explicitly lets the government confiscate any gun legally bought and registered. But pushing back on that specific point merely invites Bailey to highlight the people who very much would like to pass a law forcing law-abiding private citizens to surrender certain guns. Whether those people have the political muscle or judicial branch protection to advance such efforts at this juncture is immaterial to the larger debate over whether they exist and what they want.

We got to this point in large part because public Democrats have strong legislative and judicial majorities and secured another four years running the executive branch. Public polling (in Illinois, at least) supports passing some form of additional gun laws, and Democrats delivered for that constituency. Mathematically they didn’t need to consider minority proposals, but politically they’ll have to show the efforts were impactful, provided they survive the inevitable legal challenges to actually take event in the prescribed timeline.

When the time comes to adopt a budget incorporating meaningful mental health appropriations, will gun control votes inform those debates? How else might HB 5471 influence the next General Assembly? Do Democrats still have abundant political capital? Those and other questions bear watching as we begin a new legislative session.

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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January 12, 2023 at 05:11AM

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