Wheeler Says State Cannot Delay Action to Improve Public Safety

In the wake of another violent attack, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) says Illinois cannot continue to wait to take action. In the fall, Wheeler sponsored legislation to address bump stocks like the one used by the Las Vegas shooter and began working with the State Police (ISP) and Human Services (DHS) to address mental health reporting failures. She has since filed new legislation to increase security at gun shops and increase penalties for possession of fully automatic weapons, which is illegal under Illinois law.

“Last week’s shooting in Florida is another clear example that we cannot keep delaying action to address the link between mental health and gun violence,” said Wheeler. “Nor can we continue to ignore the reality that we do not need certain types of firearms and firearm modifications, like bump stocks, on the market.”

The different legislation Wheeler is sponsoring seeks to address specific failures in the public safety system:
  • HB 4120 – This legislation makes it illegal to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess a bump-fire stock in Illinois. Most automatic weapons have been banned in the U.S. since the 1930’s and the Illinois State Rifle Association is in of support of the legislation. 
  • HB 4218 & HB 4855 – The Illinois FOID Card Act requires hospitals to report mental health admissions to DHS, who in turn provide the information to the State Police. Current information from DHS suggestion some hospitals are failing to report admissions, and there is currently little recourse in the law to compel compliance with the reporting requirement. These pieces of legislation update the reporting requirement to ensure compliance and prevent firearm access for those considered a danger to themselves or others. 
  • HB 4904 – This legislation updates the rules for sales at licensed gun shops and provides for video surveillance and a notification system to assist law enforcement in the case of a break-in.
  • HB 5475 – This legislation increases the penalties for unlawful possession of a machine gun.
In addition to the above legislation, last week Wheeler and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) began crafting legislation to update a gap in Illinois’ stalking law. Along with the help of Lake County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Salvi, the legislation will create an emergency directive for schools and churches. This will allow the court to temporarily restrict access to firearms of someone who is considered a danger and allow for a mental health evaluation. Such a law could have prevented last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, as the suspected shooter was expelled from the school for violent behavior. The legislation is expected to be finalized and filed in the coming days.

Wheeler noted that unlike other bills some are pushing, the above pieces of legislation are focused on dealing with specific problems that must be addressed, rather than overly broad legislation that infringes on constitutional rights. Besides the mental health component related to Florida’s shooting and other recent acts of violence, the firearm that took the life of Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer possessed a modification already illegal in most states.

“Even though we have had specific rules in place to help keep firearms out of the hands of someone suffering from a potentially dangerous mental health problem, if those rules aren’t being followed, it means nothing,” said Wheeler. “One life lost because of a failure to report a mental health problem or because a firearm was unnecessarily modified is one too many; we need to close the gaps in our system immediately.”

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