SPRINGFIELD — Parents of victims of the Connecticut grade school shooting spoke Monday on the need for a statewide ban on high-capacity ammunition clips in Illinois.
Sitting before a Senate panel, parents delicately discussed their losses during the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. They urged approval of a proposal that would ban the sale, delivery and possession of magazines that accept or could be converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Mark Barden choked through his words as he told of that day he saw his son Daniel off to school.
"Then Daniel and I walked hand in hand down the driveway to his school bus," Barden said. "I hugged him, and I kissed hi, and told him I loved him. And that was the last time that I ever saw him."
Barden said he never would have thought he would be testifying about gun control in Illinois.
"I want to do whatever I can do to keep other parents from feeling the incredible pain of losing a child to senseless gun violence," he said.
The plan for banning high-capacity clips, sponsored by state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, cleared the Senate Executive Committee on a vote of 12-3. Those voting "no" were state Sens. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, and Dave Syverson, R-Rockford.
It remains unclear if the plan has enough support to clear the full Senate.
Kotowski said the intent of the measure is to crack down on the sale of magazines to limit the impact guns could have. Yet, currently held guns with more clips would not be confiscated.
The measure also would toughen prison sentences for gun-related violations.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the plan, said the proposal is common-sense legislation.
"Today, we took the first step towards banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines in Illinois, which will make our communities safer," Quinn said in a prepared statement.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he hopes the presence of the victims' parents in the General Assembly "offers a face to the debate" on gun legislation.
Currently, 10 other states have similar laws.
Nicole Hockley told the committee that in her 6-year-old son Dylan's class, 11 children escaped while the shooter was reloading a high-capacity clip and even more lives could have been saved if more reloading had been necessary.
"What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere," Hockley said. "It can happen in Illinois."
Opponents, however, said the measure would hurt manufacturing business in the state and businesses could move out of state.
Jay Keller, representing the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association, told the committee that mental health and other societal issues should be incorporated into addressing the issue.
"Don't just say we're going to do a magazine ban and think it's going to fix the problem," Keller said. "This bill before you doesn't fix anything."
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who is a key negotiator in the debate over putting a concealed carry law on the books in Illinois, said Monday's focus on a separate gun issue was not a distraction.
Rather, he said the two issues should be linked because there could be a flood of new guns in the state once concealed carry is launched.
"Given that, there has got to be a discussion on comprehensive gun policy," Raoul said.
Francine Wheeler, who lost her son Benjamin in the Connecticut shooting, told reporters Monday that a holistic approach of future gun legislation changes will take time.
"If you can look at this as a more loving and safe place to live ... for everyone who lives here, I'll do what I can to make that change," Wheeler said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1002.