Guns talks trump Illinois budget issues


House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, left, listens as Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, center, speaks to reporters after a speech on gun legislation, at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., on Wednesday. Seth Perlman, The Associated Press

By Liam Rinehart

In the midst of a budget crisis that is now more than a month and a half old, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has started pushing for a change in the gun laws in Illinois. Senate Bill 1007, which passed the Senate in May, would prohibit the manufacture, sale or transfer of “a large capacity ammunition feeding device.”

In support of the legislation, the governor met with victims of gun violence last Monday at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“A real sportsman has no use for that kind of deadly force,” he said.

But critics of the bill claim it is a smoke screen for larger issues.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, believes this piece of legislation is drawing attention away from the real issue.

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“We want to address the crime problem. We know there is an illegal black market,” he said.

But when it came to the issue of limiting ammunition, Pearson pointed to the lack of enforcement for those that violated gun laws and committed violent crimes.

“None of them have served a full term,” he said.

Rep. Harry Osterman of Chicago, a Democratic sponsor of the bill, said he is not interested in calling for a vote until there is enough support to pass it. The deadline for action on the bill has been extended six times since reaching the House floor.

“I have no objection to considering any issue while the legislature is in session,” Madigan said in the State Journal-Register. “But the reason we’re here is for a budget. We’re very delayed in doing our budget – we’ve been here since January – we ought to focus on adopting a budget for the state of Illinois.”

Blagojevich acknowledged the prolonged legislative session.

“We’ll probably be there (in Springfield) for the next several days, the next several weeks, and who knows how much longer than that,” Blagojevich said. “While we’re there, we might as well take care of some other business as well.”

SB 1007 is another example of recent setbacks for the governor. Earlier this year, he was unable to rally the party and pass his health plan in the Senate. His proposed budget is still in a deadlock in the Senate, and the House rejected his proposition to privatize the state lottery.