The Naperville City Council hosted a packed crowd on Tuesday night as the group held its first discussion on a proposed ordinance banning the sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines in the city of Naperville.
The public comment portion of the meeting lasted for over three hours, as around 50 speakers gave their opinions, representing both sides of the issue. Mayor Steve Chirico warned the crowd on several occasions after some overly vocal reactions to certain speakers, and eventually called for a pause.
Those opposed to the ordinance cited the proposal as a violation of Second Amendment rights.
Attorney Mary O’Connor spoke about legal concerns if this were to pass. “The issue is whether or not this proposal you have in front of you is likely to be held up by the Constitution, which I think the answer to that is clearly no. So you’re looking at a lot of litigation and expense for no good reason.”’
Opponents also voiced concerns that passing the ordinance would shut down local, law-abiding gun businesses.
“The way to move forward on gun violence is not to close a business with 11 employees that have worked assisting law enforcement and citizens with self-protection from violent criminals,” said Robert Bevis, owner of Law Weapons and Supply in Naperville. “I express my strong opposition to this ordinance, and if you pass this ordinance, you will destroy everything my family has spent a large part of their lives building together.
Julie Puls, lead firearms instructor at Range USA, said the ordinance would be ineffective at stopping gun violence. “This ordinance that you are proposing doesn’t stop criminals, it just penalizes law-abiding citizens,” said Puls. “It doesn’t restrict criminals’ access to guns because laws don’t apply to criminals.
On the other side of the debate, those supporting the ordinance spoke about the multitude of recent mass shootings across the country, and how there needs to be legislative changes at the local, state and federal levels.
Porus Dadabhoy, member of United for Peace in Naperville, supported the council taking action on certain types of firearms. “We’re not saying don’t sell guns,” said Dadabhoy. “They can sell handguns, but it’s the automatic weapons that kill massive amounts of people.”
Longtime Naperville resident Beverly George challenged those saying the ordinance violated Second Amendment rights, “AR-15 weapons and high capacity magazines are not found in the U.S. Constitution.”
“I believe this legislative action will make a difference because it tells the world who we are as a city,” continued George. “This ordinance is not about doing business in Naperville, but it is inherently about being Naperville.
Janice Guider, member of the Health Equity Advisors Network, praised the council for taking on this issue. “I want to congratulate the three council members who had the courage to put this item on our agenda,” said Guider. “More than ever, we are in a public health crisis of gun violence and I enjoin the city council to vote favorably on this small, but significant measure.”
Councilman Ian Holzhauer was one of the authors of the ordinance, along with fellow council members Patrick Kelly and Theresa Sullizan.“I think this a reasonable measure which the vast majority of our community will support,” said Holzhauer. “I want to be a part of the solution to this problem.”
Councilman Paul Hinterlong opposes the ordinance, saying the local level is not the place to make these types of legislative changes. “Making this type of decision isn’t in our pay grade,” said Hinterlong. “These political decisions need to be made in Springfield, or in Washington, D.C. We don’t need to be tearing apart our residents, and putting them on opposite sides of each other all the time.”
After public comment, council spent time debating the ordinance and speaking about potential amendments to the next draft. The council voted 6-2 in favor of modifying the ordinance to create an exemption for law enforcement and military personnel. They also eliminated handguns and high capacity magazines from the proposed ordinance as items prohibited for sale.
The new draft of the ban will be centered around semi-automatic rifles or large-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 15 bullets. A vote on the modified ordinance will take place at a future city council meeting.
Reporting for Naperville News 17, I’m Will Payne.