Morton Grove made international news in 1981 when it passed the most restrictive handgun ban in the nation's history.
The prohibition remained on the books until 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Washington, D.C., prompting leaders in the near north suburb to repeal their ban, with little controversy.
Now, facing a state-imposed deadline, the Morton Grove Village Board voted late Thursday to outlaw assault weapons carrying 31 or more bullets — reflecting a desire to step more gingerly around an explosive issue.
As suburbs Winnetka and Dolton joined Morton Grove in adopting last-minute gun restrictions, the tally of Chicago-area local governments to pass such laws before Friday's deadline was up to more than 15. State lawmakers had given local governments a 10-day window, starting when they overrode Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of the state's new concealed carry law, to enact local assault weapons ordinances.
With leaders in many communities hearing impassioned pleas from residents and activists on both sides of the issues, Morton Grove officials sought to strike a compromise between gun rights and public safety.
Mayor Dan DiMaria said the board set the limit at 31 rounds because gun advocates told them magazines of 20 or 30 rounds are common. DiMaria, who lost a brother to an accidental shooting long ago, said no law is perfect.
"It only takes one bullet," he said. "But I respect gun owners' rights."
South suburban Dolton also approved an assault weapons ban Thursday by a 4-1 vote.
"A lot of residents have moved from Chicago," Deputy Village Administrator Joshua Kilroy said. "They understand the realities of gun violence and are very supportive of any measures to protect them."
The spectrum of suburban responses to the issue reflects an ongoing but changing nationwide divide. Gallup polls conducted since 2000 showed a declining number of Americans favored more restrictive gun laws, but gun-control support shot up after the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting in which 26 people were killed with an assault weapon.
The National Rifle Association helped defeat efforts to revive the federal assault weapons ban, which lasted 10 years before it expired in 2004.
Many gun rights advocates object to the term "assault weapon," calling it vague or meaningless. Most of the new Illinois restrictions define them as semi-automatic rifles, meaning they shoot one bullet for each squeeze of the trigger and have features like pistol grips or folding or telescopic stocks. Penalties generally involve fines of $100 to $1,000.
Rather than banning the guns, some municipalities chose to restrict their transportation and storage. In Winnetka, a law adopted Friday puts those restrictions on any semi-automatic rifle or handgun with a fixed magazine that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
The debate in Winnetka was particularly passionate because of the 1988 school shooting by Laurie Dann, a mentally ill woman who killed one child and injured five others. Though the incident did not involve an assault weapon, it left many residents traumatized by gun violence.
Trustee Jack Buck opposed the ordinance, saying he resented restrictions on self-defense.
"None of us have ever even seen these (types of weapons). We don't know what they are," Buck said. "I find it odd we're in such a rush to do something."
Trustees Richard Kates, who knew a victim of the Dann shootings, argued for a ban because, he said, such weapons have no place in Winnetka.
"If we're going to err, I would rather err on the side of preserving life and preventing injury," he said.
Municipal attorneys have warned that any community that has enacted a weapons restriction risks a lawsuit challenging it.
The rush to pass new laws made no sense to Mike Weisman, an official with the Illinois State Rifle Association, who noted that efforts to enact a statewide ban have failed repeatedly and that most of the communities had never taken up the issue before the deadline was set.
He said the resulting patchwork of differing local ordinances means otherwise law-abiding gun owners could risk unintentionally running afoul of the law. He too predicted the new bans will be challenged in court, noting a pending lawsuit against Cook County's ban.
"These are commonly held civilian rifles," Weisman said. "I should be able to use it to defend my home."
One of the last suburbs to act on the issue was Hanover Park, whose board unanimously rejected a ban to the cheers of those attending Thursday.
Mayor Rodney Craig said he is not a "gun guy" but that once the issue came up and gun advocates packed two meetings on a proposed law, "Boy, did I learn there's a gun culture out there."
He said there should be state and national solutions to stop illegal gun purchases that lead to gun violence in cities, without restricting law-abiding gun owners.
"This goes to the next level," he said. "We have to look at our whole country and say (gun violence) is not OK. We've got to come together and solve the problem."
Tribune reporters Gregory Trotter and John P. Huston contributed.