Rauner signs 'red flag' gun law

Judges can strip guns from people deemed 'an immediate and present danger'

 Gov. Bruce Rauner hands a pen to state Rep. Kathleen Willis after signing the law on "red flag" gun confiscation that she sponsored. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Bruce Rauner hands a pen to state Rep. Kathleen Willis after signing the law on "red flag" gun confiscation that she sponsored. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The governor signed a bipartisan gun law Monday allowing judges to strip guns from people deemed "an immediate and present danger" to themselves or others.

Calling it an "emergency restraining order bill," Gov. Bruce Rauner said at a signing ceremony at the Thompson Center in Chicago that it "is a very important step forward to increase safety."

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, cheered the new law as "common-sense legislation that we know ultimately will save lives." 

The law sets standards that would allow family members and police to argue before a judge that a troubled individual should not have access to guns.

"There has to be a real proof of danger," Rauner said.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, a Democrat from Addison and lead sponsor of the bill, agreed, saying, "There has to be clear statements and clear evidence that something is going on." She suggested as an example a Facebook post saying, "You're going to end it all ... or shoot up a school."

State Rep. Peter Breen, a Lombard Republican, said he'd supported the "sensible" bill because it set a legal standard demanding "clear and convincing evidence" for a judge to take what amounts to proactive steps before a potential gun crime can be committed. "We've really got to be sure," he said. But he also said, "This is a hole in our law that we are filling today."

He compared it to a restraining order or a search warrant, with an initial finding that guns would be confiscated for 14 days, then six months after the subject has a chance to respond — a time period that can be extended if the problem persists.

The Illinois State Rifle Association dropped opposition to the bill after the initial one-year time frame was shortened to six months.

Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz, a former Chicago Police commander, said it would "possibly save people's lives," adding, "We might be able to get some guns away from people who should not have them at that time."

"Too often we hear after a shooting that there were red flags," Willis said, going on to call the new law "proactive so we can stop tragedies." According to Willis, members of the General Assembly were influenced during debate earlier this year by the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, which took place on the 10-year Valentine's Day anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shooting in DeKalb, as well as the Waffle House shooting in Nashville in April. "This is going to save lives," Willis said.

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"This is going to save lives."

State Rep. Kathleen Willis (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

"Yeah, we have got a violence problem in this country," said state Rep. Steve Reick, a Woodstock Republican. "These things are coming out of the dark recesses of a troubled mind."

Rauner said the new law would "protect constitutional rights while addressing public safety." He added that earlier in the day he'd also signed into law a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases. But he said he would veto a new attempt to regulate gun stores "if and when it is sent to my desk." Rauner vetoed a previous attempt at gun reform, throwing it back to the General Assembly with a provision to reinstate the death penalty in cases of mass shooting or killing a police officer.

Rauner also urged the General Assembly to pass a ban on bump stocks like those used in the Las Vegas shooting last year.

"What's important is that we do the right thing for the people of Illinois," he said.