The Northbrook Board of Trustees is exploring the legal options available for enacting or enforcing a ban on assault weapons and bump stocks within the village.
After about two hours of discussion Tuesday night, which included a presentation from the village’s attorney and comments from 25 people, the trustees directed staff to draft ordinances banning the sale and possession of bump stocks, banning the sale and possession of assault weapons with magazines that fire more than 10 rounds, amending the village’s liquor code to prohibit concealed-carry firearms for businesses with liquor licenses and to look into how the village could enforce the Cook County assault weapons ban.
The trustees approved three of the motions in unanimous votes. The motion directing staff to draft an ordinance banning the sale and possession of assault weapons passed 6-1, with Trustee A.C. Buehler opposed.
Village President Sandra Frum said the earliest the board might be presented with the ordinances would be at a May meeting.
In 2013, Highland Park passed an assault weapons ban and was later sued by a resident and the Illinois State Rifle Association. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case in December 2015, thereby keeping the ban in place.
However, that does not mean all municipalities in Illinois can individually adopt a ban on assault weapons, said Northbrook Village Attorney Steve Elrod.
In 2013, the state legislature adopted the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act, which contained an amendment to the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card Act that states the regulation of assault weapons is the exclusive jurisdiction of the state and that any municipal ordinances banning or regulating assault weapons had to be enacted within a 10-day window, Elrod said.
The Highland Park assault weapons ban met the 10-day deadline, Elrod said. Neighboring Deerfield enacted an ordinance during that time frame defining assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and regulating their storage. Earlier this month, Deerfield approved an amendment to the ordinance banning certain types of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Elrod said.
Northbrook chose not to take any action in 2013, instead “relying on the state’s declaration that it was going to regulate assault weapons,” Elrod said.
Northbrook has ordinances that regulate firearms in general, but they could not be amended the same way Deerfield amended its ordinance because the village did not take action back in 2013, he said.
Elrod says the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card Act definition of assault weapon is “limited” and it does not include large-capacity magazines. In his view, that gives Northbrook and other communities that did not pass assault weapon bans in 2013 the ability to regulate the possession of large-capacity magazines and other weapon accessories, Elrod said.
The state legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit the sale of bump stocks and allow municipalities to regulate the possession of assault weapons, among other things. If passed, the bill would allow communities like Northbrook to enact regulations on assault weapons, Elrod said.
Cook County has an assault weapons ban, which Northbrook can utilize, that prohibits the manufacturing, sale and possession of any assault weapon or large-capacity magazine in Cook County, Elrod said. The Cook County ordinance is identical to the Highland Park and Deerfield ordinances in its definition of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, he said.
In the Deerfield ordinance, the definition of an assault weapon includes, among others, semiautomatic rifles that have a fixed magazine with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition; shotguns with a revolving cylinder; and semiautomatic pistols and rifles that can accept large-capacity magazines and possess one of a list of other features. Among the dozens of specific models cited are the AR-15, AK-47 and Uzi.
Currently, the Cook County ordinance is enforced in Northbrook and throughout the county by the Cook County Sheriff’s office, Elrod said. After Tuesday’s vote, the village will now research whether the Northbrook Police Department has the right to enforce the county ordinance in Northbrook, he said.
Elrod listed eight options Northbrook has to enact an assault weapons ban, which includes waiting for the outcome of the state bill or adopting an assault weapons ban with a delayed effective date if the state bill becomes a law. The village could also consider adopting an assault weapons ban under the amendment of the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card Act, but there is a possibility the option is not available to Northbrook as a matter of law, he said.
The village can also adopt a ban on possession of large-capacity magazines, a ban of certain accessories like bump stocks, acknowledge the applicability of and enforce the Cook County assault weapons ban and express support for a statewide ban on assault weapons, Elrod said.
People who spoke in favor of the village taking action against assault weapons urged the board to enact the bans, enforce the Cook County ordinance and express support for a statewide ban on assault weapons.
JoJo Hebl, a Northbrook resident, said she addressed the board after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and urged trustees to take action against assault weapons. The board previously decided that the issue should be decided at the state and federal level, but “unfortunately it just hasn’t happened.”
Hebl said she supports the option to acknowledge and enforce the Cook County ordinance because “it’s just a no brainer.”
“I implore this village to do something,” Hebl said. “Send a message to the state and federal government that we’re going to do something because you haven’t.”
Northbrook resident Catherine Caporusso said she supports the ban on large-capacity magazines, the ban on bump stock and acknowledging and enforcing the Cook County ordinance.
As a gun owner, Caporusso said she understands how people can feel safe having a properly secured handgun in the house. But Caporusso said she does not believe that anyone “should have or needs” assault rifles or similar accessories.
“I urge you to do something, help protect my kids. We need you to take some action,” Caporusso said.
Northbrook resident and National Rifle Association member Zachary Sims said he is against an assault rifle ban because it is an ineffective, feel-good law that is unenforceable.
As a village in Cook County, Northbrook is already covered under the Cook County assault weapons ban, so there is no need to duplicate the ordinance, Sims said. The village should be mindful of potential lawsuits and legal fees that may arise after approving a potential ban, he said.
“There are other things and wiser ways we could spend our money,” Sims said. “There are ways we could secure our schools without passing a feel-good ban. We could provide that money that would be otherwise spent on legal fees towards mental health services and other options that would actually have a meaningful impact.”
Jim Stockinger, a Northbrook resident, said that gun owners are law abiding citizens and more regulations won’t prevent crime or mass shootings.
“Please don’t enact any foolish, reactive legislation,” Stockinger said.
Trustee Robert Israel said he was “horrendously disappointed” when the state in 2013 hid “this Easter egg in the legislation” that only it can regulate assault weapons and then did not take action.
Israel said he supports a ban on high-capacity magazines and bump stocks and looking into ways of enforcing the Cook County ordinance in Northbrook.
Trustee Muriel Collison said she does not want to wait for the state to take action.
“There is absolutely zero reason for ownership of an assault weapon in Northbrook,” Collison said. “I did not hear one single person give a valid reason as to why an assault weapon would ever be necessary.”
Deerfield passed its assault weapons ban on April 2 and was sued on April 5 by a resident along with the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation. That ban is currently set to go into effect June 13.
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