BLOOMINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois broke with Republicans on Wednesday to vote for federal gun control legislation, but it wasn’t enough.
A coalition of Senate Republicans and some rural-state Democrats blocked approval of a series of initiatives that would have tightened background checks and banned assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“I am disappointed that the Senate could not come together to support a bipartisan proposal that would reduce gun violence and protect law-abiding gun owners, but American voters are the ultimate judge of today’s result,” Kirk said after the provision on background checks, which he co-sponsored, was defeated. Although the vote was 54-46, it fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.
Central Illinois gun sellers and shooters seemed relieved, however.
Stephen Stewart, owner of firearm seller 10-8 Outfitters in Bloomington, said he opposed the measure and is glad to see it defeated.
“It gives me hope that our elected officials are defending our Constitution just like they’re supposed to,” Stewart said.
Stewart called for tougher penalties for felonies committed with guns and for “getting (mental health information) into the system where this stuff could be seen when a background check is done: Those are the things that will make a difference,” Stewart said. “Those are the people committing heinous acts.”
Wes Pietsch, 73, of Decatur, vice president of the Decatur Gun Club, said he is against the expansion of background checks, citing the system the state already has in place. Illinois State Police do background checks for Firearm Owner Identification cards, and the agency has said it has a backlog of tens of thousands of applications.
“I’m a senior citizen and have held guns in excess of 60 years. I’ve taught my sons and now my grandsons, and we all enjoy the shooting sports,” Pietsch said. “These background checks (represent) certain politicians trying to play to their constituency so they can pass something. Whether it works is irrelevant.”
Dan Cooley, owner of the Bullet Trap in Macon, a shooting range and firearm seller, said he was happy with the results of the vote. He called for better enforcement of laws already on the books.
“I had no problem with (expanded background checks) as such, but expanded background checks can be abused,” Cooley said. “Criminals are not going to obey the laws. If we would just enforce the laws we have, I think we could do a better job with this.”