Proposed ban on sale of some high-powered guns draws mixed reactions in Naperville


Naperville’s proposed ban on the sale of some high-powered weapons is drawing mixed reactions.

City council members Tuesday will begin a discussion on an ordinance prohibiting the sale of what officials describe as assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The proposed ban comes in response to the mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade and other recent attacks. The measure would prohibit the commercial sale of certain firearms on a five-page list, including the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle used in the parade shooting that killed seven people and injured dozens more.

However, it would not ban private sales of such weapons or block residents from owning them.

“I think we need to do something,” Councilman Benny White said Friday. “I don’t know what that will look like, but I think we need to do something.”

Amid the debate of what “something” should look like, Councilman Ian Holzhauer said he couldn’t help but think of those who stood outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, looking for guidance on what to do as a gunman was inside the school. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the May 24 shooting.

“As an elected official, I can do something,” he said. “It might be something small, but I can do something to help keep our community safe and stand for our community values.”



Council members said they anticipate a large turnout at Tuesday’s meeting and already have received many mixed reviews on the proposal.

Officials from the Illinois State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association said their organizations oppose the ban and question if Naperville has the authority to pass the measure.

Richard Pearson, president of the Illinois State Rifle Association, argued the state’s concealed carry law, passed in 2013, includes a clause prohibiting municipalities from passing their own regulations regarding gun ownership. When the concealed carry law was passed, municipalities were given a 10-day window to approve local ordinances. Naperville took no action at that time.

In a memo to city council members, City Attorney Michael DiSanto said the proposed ordinance would not prohibit the ownership of such weapons, only the commercial sale of them, in Naperville, which has home-rule powers.

The 2013 state law “does not preempt home-rule municipalities from regulating the commercial sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines within their jurisdiction,” DiSanto wrote. “Therefore, the city retains its broad home rule authority to legislate with respect to commercial sales.”



Pearson disagrees.

“The right to own includes the right to buy and sell,” said Pearson, who added the organization has forwarded the proposed ordinance to its attorney for review.

Others, however, are backing the proposed ban, saying it’s a step toward curbing gun violence. The draft ordinance defines an “assault weapon” to include a semi-automatic rifle with a magazine that is not fixed and has certain features like a pistol grip or a grenade launcher.

“There’s no good reason for anyone to have these guns,” said Leslie Ruffing, group leader for the Naperville chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We believe that these weapons have no place in any of our communities.”

She described the proposed ban as “a start” and said she hoped it would inspire state and federal lawmakers to adopt gun-control measures.

“We’ve waited too long,” she said, pointing to the lives lost in recent mass shootings, “and we cannot wait any longer.”


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