By REGINA GARCIA CANO
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Illinois House on Tuesday voted in favor of amendments that would ban semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, though the proposals still face several legislative battles before they could become law.
The six amendments were made to a bill that House Speaker Michael Madigan left blank on purpose, and they were approved in an unusual process that Madigan began using last week to allow legislators to debate at length on contentious topics. The House still would need to approve the full piece of legislation for it to move to the Senate.
Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said Republicans did not vote on any of the amendments, which were brought to the House floor without going through the normal committee process.
"It's a complete violation of the proper procedure. We just chose to wait until they decided to follow the rules," Tracy said.
One of the amendments would make it a felony for anyone to sell, purchase or transfer a military-style assault weapon. Should the amendment become law, it would make it illegal for civilians to possess these types of weapons after a 300-day period following the measure's enactment.
Chicago Democratic Rep. Edward Acevedo, who sponsored two of the amendments, said civilians shouldn't own such weapons because they were designed for "mass destruction."
"These weapons are not for hunting. ... They're designed to kill a group of people at one time," Acevedo said.
Acevedo said the weapons include those that were used by the shooters in the massacres at a movie theater in Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year.
But some Democrats and Republicans argued that the state shouldn't decide what guns people should be allowed to have to protect their families.
Rep. Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, also argued that a "fatal flaw" in Acevedo's assault-weapon possession proposal was that it does not address what current assault-weapon owners should do with their firearms.
Mautino said the bill "accidentally makes felons of tens of thousands of Illinois citizens" who already own a military-style weapon.
The amendments were approved with Democratic votes only.
Republicans refused to cast votes. GOP Rep. Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst said Madigan's procedure puts politics before public safety.
"Why do we continue to play these games of going amendment by amendment?" Reboletti said.
Tracy said fear and ignorance of guns is a problem in the Legislature.
"A lot of these people don't know what a semiautomatic firearm is. They think we're talking about machine guns, which are illegal," Tracy said.
Tracy said mental health cuts occurring in the state threaten public safety, while gun control measures are debated.
"There's something very wrong with this picture," Tracy said.
Republicans have strongly opposed Madigan's new floor-debate style. He has also used his "weekly order of business" process to discuss concealed carry and pension proposals, and Republicans also refused to vote on pension amendments Thursday.
Halfway through Tuesday's debate, someone on the Republican sided shouted, "Stop the circus!"
Tuesday's amendments also called for forcing individuals who would be exempted from the ban, such as members of the armed forces and jail wardens, to store their guns with a locking device that renders them inoperable or under a key or combination lock.
Herald-Whig Senior Writer Doug Wilson contributed to this story.