Pediatricians Lynn Gettleman Chehab and Marjorie Fujara attended the peace march and rally on June 22. Dr. Fujara spoke at City Council in support of the assault weapons ban.                              RoundTable Photo

An ordinance seeking to ban “the possession, transfer, sale or display of assault weapons in the City of Evanston” was introduced by City Council on the Consent Agenda as a special order of business, meaning there was no Council debate on June 24. Evanston residents conducted a debate of their own, however, during citizen comment. The ban comes before Council for action July 8.

The Illinois Firearm  Conceled Carry Act, passed by the Illinois legislature but as yet unsigned by Governor Pat Quinn, requires home rule municipalities to act within ten days of the date the Act becomes law if they wish to regulate assault weapons. A veto of the Act remains a real possibility.

Citizens were basically evenly divided between those in favor and those opposed to the measure. Those in favor spoke of the scourge of gun violence here and across the country, the Sandy Hook and other gun violence tragedies, and the lack of practical usefulness of military style weapons in the urban, home setting. Those opposed to the ban pointed to the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a citizen’s right to bear arms, the hobby of target shooting, the fact that none of the gun violence incidents in Evanston over the past 20 years have involved assault weapons, and the cost of defending inevitable litigation that they insist will result if a ban is passed.

Todd Kennedy, speaking against the proposed ban, said that the ban, if passed, will do nothing to lower crime in Evanston. “What is an assault weapon?” he asked, questioning the items used in proposed legislation circulated by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon that defines features that bring a weapon within the “assault weapon” designation.

Evanston’s City Council is looking “to pass some kind of ban if only to prove that they can,” said Mr. Kennedy.

Herb Langston, a target- shooting enthusiast, said Council would be “criminalizing” him, costing him a lot of money, and the resulting ban would “have absolutely no effect on crime.” His “criminalizing” comment was echoed by several speakers who decried an ordinance that they said would punish law-abiding citizens.

Stefan Backus urged Council to consider the financial consequences of a ban. “How much are you budgeting for legal fees?” he asked. “What programs and services are you willing to cut in order to finance the litigation” that will inevitably result if the ban is passed, he asked.

But those in favor of the ban were just as, if not more, passionate in favor of the ban. Madelyn Ducree said everyone qualifies as a law-abiding citizen, but everyone loses their temper from time to time. “We are all human,” she said, and if someone snaps when a gun is around tragedy follows. She called for regulation and registration of guns.

Carolyn Murray, mother of teen-aged Justin Murray, who was murdered in Evanston last November, held up the blood splattered shirt of a friend who held Mr. Murray after he was shot. “We don’t want any new members in our morbid moms club,” she said, referencing a group of mothers of murder victims.

Marjorie Fujara, a pediatrician who lives in Evanston and works at Stroger Hospital, spoke in favor of the ban. “Assault weapons have no legitimate role in our society.  They are designed for military use in combat situations to kill as many people, in the shortest time, possible. The plague of gun violence is the greatest public health problem facing young people today.  Aside from fatalities, debilitating injuries, years of lost productivity, the gun violence epidemic in our communities exposes young children to toxic stress. Toxic stress has been shown to cause actual changes in the brain architecture of developing minds.  These changes cause ordinary stressors to be interpreted as imminent threats resulting in impulsive, aggressive responses. … An assault-weapons ban does not violate Second Amendment rights.  It is a common sense measure that recognizes the rights of citizen to be safe in their communities.”

During Citizen Comment, Alderman Ann Rainey asked Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to remind speakers that no action would be taken that night, signalling that Council members would not discuss the matter, and they did not. The ordinance was introduced on the Consent Agenda, and will return to Council for full debate on July 8.

What is an Assault Weapon?

The proposed definition of an assault weapon, per the ordinance introduced by Evanston City Council Monday night, June 24, is as follows:

 An “assault weapon” is defined as:

(A) A semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has one or more of the following:

(1) A handgun grip without a stock attached;

(2) Any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;

(3) A folding, telescoping or thumbhole stock;

(4) A shroud attached to the barrel, or that partially or completely encircles the barrel, allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel; or

(5) A muzzle brake or muzzle compensator; or a flash suppressor or grenade launcher.

(B) A semiautomatic handgun that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has one or more of the following:

(1) Any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;

(2) A folding, telescoping or thumbhole stock;

(3) A shroud attached to the barrel, or that partially or completely encircles the barrel, allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel; or

(4) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.

(C)A semiautomatic shotgun that has one or more of the following:

(1) Only a pistol grip without a stock attached;

(2) Any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;

(3) A folding, telescoping or thumbhole stock; or

(4) An ability to accept a detachable magazine.

(D) Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

“Assault weapon” does not include any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or satisfies the definition of “antique firearm…”