SPRINGFIELD — —
Parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims testified Monday in favor of an Illinois limit on the size of ammunition magazines, a proposal that got a Senate committee endorsement.
The Executive Committee voted 12-3 on legislation to ban the delivery, sale or transfer of ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds after emotional testimony from the families of two first-graders who died in the Newtown, Conn., shooting in December that claimed 26 lives.
And it included a sharp retort from the legislation's sponsor to a Republican asking questions about an exception for using the magazines to depict violence in Illinois-made movies.
Illinois has failed repeatedly to enact an assault-weapons ban since a federal prohibition expired in 2004. The issue was infused with new urgency after a movie theater shooting in Colorado last summer and Newtown on Dec. 14.
Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son, Daniel, died at Sandy Hook, said the police investigation showed killer Adam Lanza made a conscious decision to leave smaller-capacity magazines behind.
"He knew that by bringing the high-capacity magazines, he could kill a lot more people, and he did," Barden testified.
The sponsor, Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, and other supporters believe that except for police officers and the military, gun owners don't need magazines that quickly feed 30 or more rounds of ammunition. But sports-shooting events are also an exception in the legislation, which would not confiscate any existing weapons.
In Dylan Hockley's classroom at Sandy Hook, Lanza's need to reload allowed 11 children to escape, Dylan's mother, Nicole Hockley, testified.
"If the shooter's magazines had held 10 rounds instead of 30, forcing him to reload many more times, what additional opportunities could have been available for someone to disarm him, or for more children to escape?" she said.
But Todd Vandermyde, Illinois lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, showed committee members a photo he said depicted Chicago police officers holding semi-automatic AR-15s to guard the home of a slain colleague and said the Illinois governor's security detail is issued handguns outfitted for magazines of more than 10 rounds.
"If it's good enough to protect their lives, and it's good enough for them for the protection of their families, then why is my family worth any less?" Vandermyde asked. "I'm on the road as much as all of you are, away from home, and these are exactly the types of tools that I leave in the hands of my family to protect themselves."
Jay Keller, of the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association, said members told him a law limiting magazine size would force them to leave Illinois. That perplexed Senate supporters, who said the firearms-builders could still sell their wares in other states, just not in Illinois.
Keller said another client, the Motion Picture Association of America, would no longer oppose the bill now that Kotowski had amended it to exempt the use of the magazines in filming movies.
That led to a curt exchange between Kotowski and Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican. Righter asked if Kotowski believed violent movies contributed to societal violence. Kotowski said there were a number of cultural factors that contributed.
So Righter asked the reason for the movie carve-out, and when Kotowski said it was because movie actors use blanks, Righter, attempting to stress that movie violence looks real, said, "I would hope they're not using live-round ammunition in movies, senator, and I'm assuming that the actors who fall over are not really dead."
Kotowski accused Righter of trying to "minimize the impact" of high-capacity magazines.
"When someone gets access to a 100-capacity ammunition magazine and they use it in a crime," Kotowski said, "we have real-life dead bodies."