The grieving mother of a 6-year-old killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School joined Illinois Democrats on Sunday in calling for a statewide ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Nicole Hockley choked up when discussing the December massacre in Newtown, Conn., that claimed her son Dylan.
"In Newtown, we learned the brutal truth about the devastation that high-capacity magazines can cause," said Hockley inside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
Hockley, who was joined by fellow Newtown parents Mark Barden and Francine Wheeler, said the proposed law — Senate Bill 1002 — could save innocent lives.
Adam Lanza, 20, who stormed Sandy Hook and killed 27 people there, including himself, fired 154 bullets in less than five minutes, officials said. He deliberately chose to carry 30-round magazines instead of smaller magazines to kill as many people as possible, Hockley said.
"If he needed to reload more often, how many other children might be alive today from both classrooms?" Hockley asked. "Maybe Dylan would still be alive."
That sentiment was shared by the other Newtown parents at the news conference with Gov. Pat Quinn. Wheeler pointed out that 11 children were able to escape Lanza while he reloaded.
"Not my son Ben," Wheeler said, as she paused to compose herself, "but other precious children are alive today because magazine size makes a difference."
Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, joined the parents in calling on state legislators to pass the bill banning the delivery and sale of ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds.
Under that legislation, introduced Friday by Kotowski, the sale or delivery of these magazines would be punishable by a maximum of three years in prison. It would also make the use of a high-capacity magazine during a crime an aggravating factor leading to a stiffer penalty, Kotowski said.
Kotowski carried a stuffed teddy bear to the event. After the tragedy in Newtown, people across the country mailed teddy bears to Connecticut as a way to express sympathy.
He used the teddy bear to make a point about gun laws in America.
"What I found ironic about this, tragically ironic, is that teddy bears face more stringent regulations than guns do in our country," Kotowski said. "Teddy bears are tested for sharp edges, points, loose parts and flammability. And you know the number of children who were killed by teddy bears in our country last year?"
Opponents of bills to ban high-capacity magazines said those measures would be ineffective in stopping criminals who don't obey guns laws from killing people.
The measure will need 30 votes in the Senate and 60 votes in the House to pass in the next 12 days, Quinn said. The governor said he hopes that, in passing the bill, the legislature will send a message against gun violence.
"There is a passage in Scripture that says if you save one life, you save the whole world," Quinn said. "That's what we're here to do today and tomorrow and this whole next 12 days."
Cullerton, a longtime proponent of stricter gun laws, signaled his intention to fight for the bill.
"I refuse to let one faction, the National Rifle Association, dictate a response that benefits their interests while silencing the voices of victims," he said.
Cullerton said he expected the vote on this issue, as well as another measure before the Senate regarding concealed carry restrictions, to be "very close."
After the news conference, the Newtown parents said they are struggling to understand why a bill that would limit the size of ammunition magazines faces a struggle for passage.
"Because it's common sense. It's not taking away guns from anybody. It's nothing about banning. There's nothing about confiscation. Everyone's rights are protected," Hockley said. "This is just about limiting the number of bullets a magazine can hold. We look at hunters' rules, where there are limits to the amount of bullets that a shotgun or handgun can hold when shooting game. We don't quite understand why humans can't be afforded that same right."
To the parents, it's not a political issue at all, Barden said.
"It comes down to simple math," he said. "In a mass shooting when the shooter has to stop shooting and he's preoccupied with reloading, that's an opportunity for people to stop him."
The parents said they plan to speak with Illinois legislators Monday about the bill.
Hockley said what happened in Newtown can happen anywhere, in "any quiet town or any busy city." That's why it's important to make changes now, she said.
"Our country is at a turning point in history, and every day of inaction means more lives can be lost," Hockley said. "Don't wait until this happens in your community to take action. Don't wait until our tragedy becomes yours."
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