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Municipalities rush to pass assault weapons limits before Friday's deadline

(MCT) — At least 12 Illinois communities have rushed to ban or restrict assault weapons before today's deadline set by state lawmakers.

Another dozen or so towns were poised to take 11th-hour action, while about 30 others considered but rejected the weapons restrictions, by one pro-gun group's count, reflecting ambivalence over the highly charged issue.

In recent weeks, residents and activists for and against restrictions have packed meetings in some towns and cheered decisions that went their way. In many more Chicago-area municipalities, officials didn't even raise the issue, and many said they didn't hear much about it from residents.

The Friday deadline was set through a new state law that makes it legal to carry concealed weapons in public. The legislation included a provision that gave local governments 10 days from its passage to enact local weapons regulations, and that clock started when the General Assembly overrode Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of the concealed carry law last week.

Chicago and Cook County gained the most attention by further strengthening assault weapons bans this week.

Last month, Highland Park was among the first to act, approving a ban modeled on Cook County's law after an emotional debate. In neighboring Deerfield, officials presented their solution as more moderate because it regulates only the storage and transportation of guns.

The debate in Winnetka was particularly passionate, coming shortly after the 25th anniversary of the Laurie Dann school shooting that killed one child and wounded five. That shooting did not involve a so-called assault weapon but left some residents traumatized by gun violence. Others argued against limiting their ability to defend their family.

The Village Council is set to vote Friday on a proposal that, like Deerfield's, would limit the transportation and storage of the weapons but not ban them.

At a standing-room-only City Council meeting in Darien on Monday, more than 100 gun-rights supporters cheered as aldermen decided not to ban assault weapons. The board also voted down a second proposal related to in-home storage of guns.

According to the Illinois State Rifle Association's count, about 30 Illinois towns considered weapons limits but later rejected regulations, sometimes after strong objections from gun-rights proponents.

Other communities, instead of outright bans, outlawed weapons that hold more than a specific number of bullets. Homewood and Hazel Crest each banned guns that contain more than 10 rounds.

Other towns passed "place-holder" ordinances, preserving their right to act in the future. Buffalo Grove, for instance, passed a ban on machine guns, which are already illegal, in anticipation of possible further legislation.

Several communities, including Park Ridge and Lake Forest, backed off action after gun-rights advocates spoke out against the idea. Lake Zurich voted against regulations on storing and transporting the guns in the face of opposition.

In many of the ordinances, violators would be punished by fines, generally ranging from $100 to $1,000. Owners of the weapons generally have 90 days to alter, remove or surrender their arms.

The vast majority of the state's 1,200 municipalities took no action, according to the state rifle association's tracking.

Some of the local ordinances probably will be challenged in court, said association official Mark Weisman. One challenge against Cook County's law is already pending.


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