Pritzker, Welch publicly scoff at proposed Senate changes to assault weapons bill

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch aren’t happy with proposed changes by the Illinois Senate on a measure that would ban assault weapons, voicing their strong opposition in separate public statements on Sunday.

Senators returned to Springfield in the waning days of the lame-duck session — and two days after the Illinois House passed a comprehensive bill that would immediately ban the sale of assault weapons in the state and prevent sales of large-capacity magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.

But there are some sticking points for Senate Democrats, which was anticipated. House Democrats spent months in a working group with advocates and members of Pritzker’s team to craft the bill. Senators were not part of those discussions.

New proposed changes include the types of assault weapons that would be banned. The House bill relied on a definition of assault weapons that was used in federal legislation that expired in 2004. But the bill also included revisions to include firearms that had been updated or modified in the last decade. The Senate proposal would further change that list, which some believe contained flaws, including guns that are no longer manufactured.

Senate Democrats also removed language that would have required gun owners to disclose serial numbers of their assault weapons within 300 days of the law taking effect, amid concerns gun owners would be required to report all of their firearms, not just assault weapons.

There are also additional concerns over criminal penalties included in the measure. Bill sponsors in the House lessened penalties for those caught with high-capacity magazines — making a second offense a $1,000 fine instead of a felony charge.


Pritzker released a statement saying the current language coming out of the Senate "falls short." Welch went even further, calling changes "a watered-down version of legislation that falls unacceptably short of the comprehensive solutions that the people of this state deserve."

"The people of this state deserve a real assault weapons ban, one that has a real accounting of the weapons currently in circulation and a real chance at ceasing the flow of more weapons of war immediately," Pritzker said in his statement, which he also tweeted. "We need a bill that meets the urgency of now and the current version in the Senate falls short."

In response to the criticisms, John Patterson, spokesman for Illinois Senate President Don Harmon reiterated that both chambers "have shared goals on these issues."

House Democrats already made a giant concession in their quest to approve the measure — removing original language that would have raised the eligibility for a state firearm owner’s identification card for most Illinois residents to 21 was not included in the measure that cleared the House. That language was included when House Democrats initially filed the bill on Dec. 1. And House sponsors also added language that would allow gun manufacturers to continue to make firearms that can be sold in states where their sale is still legal.

Senators planned to take up the measure in the Senate Executive Committee on Monday morning ahead of Pritzker’s inauguration ceremony. It’s unclear when the bill will make it to the Senate floor for a full vote.