DECATUR - A group of Central Illinois lawmakers is calling for a bipartisan coalition of downstate legislators to unite in support of job creation and in opposition to gun control laws, state Rep. Chapin Rose said at a Thursday news conference in Decatur.
State Reps. Adam Brown of Decatur and Bill Mitchell of Forsyth joined the Mahomet Republican near the Law Enforcement Center on Franklin Street to discuss the coalition and recent legislation they said "bans hunting" in Illinois.
Rose cited House Bills 1294, 1599 and 1855. According to versions of the bills posted on the General Assembly's website, they ban the manufacture, sale or transportation of weapons that include semiautomatic firearms that accept a detachable magazine. It also bans possessing attachments such as pistol grips, thumb-hole stocks or muzzle shrouds.
The bills also collectively lay down harsher penalties on those convicted of gun crimes involving "assault weapons" and prescribe penalties for those who do not report their guns being stolen.
"Shotguns would be banned and hunting, as we know it, would be over with," Rose said. "There are millions of dollars spent in downstate Illinois every year related to hunting."
The legislation specifically bans shotguns with cylindrical magazines, and semiautomatic shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five shells or that has a pistol grip or thumb-hole stock.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said the weapon descriptions under the bills are overly broad and rule out many weapons suitable for hunting and self-defense.
"Just the fact I have a thumb-hole stock laying around is a felony. I've got a slew of AR-15s," Vandermyde said, naming a semiautomatic rifle specifically cited as banned under the legislation. "I hunt with them all the time. (Under this bill), that's all gone."
Rose said the coalition would seek to unite downstate Democrats and Republicans against "legislation from Chicago that would hurt downstate citizens." Rose said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg has joined with him as a member of the coalition.
"I think we're all tired and fed up with Chicago dictating to downstate," Brown said. "It's time we stand behind Chapin Rose and Rep. Phelps in creating a downstate coalition and protecting our Second Amendment right to concealed carry."
Phelps could not attend the news conference but issued a news release jointly with Rose.
"I've always believed in working both sides of the aisle to help on the issues that are important to downstate," Phelps wrote. "In this case, ending hunting would kill jobs in downstate Illinois."
Rose said the coalition is also interested in a range of downstate economic issues. He expressed some confidence the coalition could pull enough votes together to send a veto-proof concealed carry bill through the House.
Rose is running for election to the 51st Illinois Senate District, which includes parts of Decatur and Macon County. Brown and Mitchell also are running for re-election.
State Rep. Edward Acevedo is sponsoring House bills 1294, 1599 and 1855. Calls to his Springfield and Chicago offices were not returned Thursday afternoon.