Lake Forest city officials recently tabled an ordinance regulating assault weapons after some called the proposal unconstitutional, an infringement on Second Amendment rights and inconsistent with statewide control efforts.
"My personal feeling is that we should let it go," said Ald. Robert Palmer of the 4th Ward, who argued the state should have uniform gun regulations. "We shouldn't seek to retain our home rule authority over what little is left for firearm regulation."
State legislators recently approved a measure that allows legal gun owners in Illinois to carry concealed firearms. The law preempts municipal home-rule authority with regards to gun regulations but allows local governments to enact assault weapon rules or bans within 10 days of the governor's signature of the law.
The ordinance under discussion in Lake Forest amended the city code with a new section modeled after Cook County's ban that defines assault weapons, lists models of rifles, copies and duplicates that fall under the definition, outlines storage restrictions and requires such weapons to be registered.
The ordinance also requires individuals in violation of city regulations to pay a fine of up to $750 and allows unregistered weapons to be confiscated and destroyed by Lake Forest police.
An outright prohibition on assault weapons appeared to be off the table, according to some city officials.
"It was pretty apparent from the council and resident response that some ban on assault weapons is not going to happen in Lake Forest," Mayor Donald Schoenheider said.
But a few residents at the city council meeting spoke in favor of stricter gun control. Two members of the League of Women Voters in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, Jane Partridge and Elizabeth Bradner, called for a ban on assault weapons and stricter gun responsibility.
"I was appalled, disgusted and saddened," Partridge said of the city council discussion. "We were the only two voices that cared about the community and our children. All of it was about liberty for the individual, legal issues and home rule—nothing about the welfare of the community."
Partridge said school shootings can be rendered even more dangerous when the perpetrators of the crimes use assault weapons.
"I don't think assault weapons are necessary for self-protection or hunting, and I don't think they're safe to keep in a private home," said Bradner in agreement.
"I am completely opposed to the proposed ordinance," said Lake Forest resident William Briggs. "I'm in favor of legal rights of citizens to own guns to protect themselves and their families and their possessions."
Briggs said he felt the city's aldermen had a limited understanding of the new concealed carry bill and was disappointed by city staff's advice and direction to the council.
Several Lake Forest aldermen said at the meeting that preserving the community's home-rule authority was crucial.
Ald. Kent Novit, 1st, said the state rushed local municipalities with the 10-day window into creating laws to preserve their right to govern.
"It's almost a chaotic situation," Novit said. "To me, it's just maddening that Springfield would throw this in the lap of municipalities. I want to at least create some form of regulation so that the city under its home-rule rights has the ability in the future to respond to regulate assault weapons and be responsive for the community."
Novit said the types of weapons in the so-called "assault" category should be dealt with separately from other guns.
"We're not talking about control of pistols or guns as a whole, we're trying to control the most extreme weapons out there," he said. "Just by their name of assault weapons, they're not defensive."
Scott Drury, Illinois State Representative for the 58th District, also attended the meeting in Lake Forest after visiting several other municipal board meetings, including ones in Deerfield, Highland Park and Highwood.
"I strongly believe it is in all of the communities' interest to put assault weapons regulations on the books before they lose the ability to do so," Drury said.
Lake Forest resident Mark Shaw said he thinks any type of legislation along these lines would be better on the state level.
"I thought it was prudent of the Lake Forest City Council to table the discussion to a later date and to review exactly what type of ordinance, if any, would be appropriate for our city," Shaw said. "Any kind of legislation that addresses any kind of weapon possession, storage or transportation needs to come from Springfield just so people can have a better idea of what's allowed and not allowed depending on where they happen to be at any given time in Illinois."
Lake Forest's City Council agreed to defer passing any regulations until the next board meeting on July 15. Aldermen said that in the meantime, city staff can rework the current ordinance to make it less restrictive and create place-holders to be voted on instead.