Both Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday night praised an Illinois Senate committee's approval of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In a party-line vote, the committee approved measures that would ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of semiautomatic handguns and rifles, but would allow current owners to keep them. High-capacity ammunition magazines would be restricted.
Quinn said he is very pleased the Public Health Committee took the step.
"There is no place in Illinois for weapons designed to rapidly fire at human targets at close range," he said.
In a statement, Emanuel said in order to protect children, families and communities, there is a need for "common-sense laws that provide the residents of our cities with the safety they deserve."
Gun rights groups, however, said the measures go too far and amount to an assault-weapons ban "on steroids."
Democrats are seeking restrictions in the wake of the school massacre in Connecticut last month and mass shootings in Wisconsin and Colorado last year. While the measures were approved by the committee, supporters will have a tougher sell in the full Senate, where downstate Democrats as well as Republicans are more pro-gun.
One measure would ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of semiautomatic handguns and rifles. People who currently own such weapons could keep them but would have to register them. The bill would allow semiautomatic weapons to be used at shooting ranges, but those facilities would be regulated.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde told lawmakers the bill would restrict about 75 percent of handguns and 50 percent of long guns in circulation today. He also said it would treat law-abiding gun owners like criminals, and is in conflict with Second Amendment rights upheld by the courts.
"I've never seen a piece of legislation that tramples on so many court decisions," Vandermyde said.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Antonio "Tony" Munoz, disagreed.
"For everyone that says that we're taking away their rights, well then go to the range," the Chicago Democrat told members of the Senate Public Health Committee.
The second proposal would limit ammunition magazines and other "ammunition feeding devices" to 10 or fewer rounds. A similar measure received Senate approval in 2007, but the bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Kotowski, downplayed the idea that a separate effort on shells stood a better chance of passage than the ban on weapons.
"The reason why I'm focusing on that is because (high) magazine capacity has led to the increased lethality and the dangers associated with automatic weapons," the Park Ridge Democrat said.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, called for an assault-weapons ban in August after a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater. But he took the approach -- highly unpopular with legislators -- of rewriting a fairly innocuous bill covering ammunition purchases, substituting language on semiautomatic weapons.
That failed when the General Assembly voted to override his amendatory veto, but mostly because lawmakers thought Quinn had overstepped his authority.