It's been a tumultuous few weeks for city councils and village boards throughout the North Shore, as assault weapon regulations have taken center stage at meetings.
Residents, gun rights opponents and NRA members have been filling city halls throughout the Chicago suburbs to argue for and against putting assault weapons regulations on the books.
The debate is the result of the concealed carry legislation recently passed by the Illinois Legislature. Home rule communities such as Highland Park have to put a ban or other legislation in place within 10 days of Gov. Pat Quinn signing the bill, which has a July 9 deadline.
The chain of events began in December when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Illinois' ban on concealed carry weapons violates the Second Amendment, and set a June 9 deadline for the state legislature to craft its own legislation to get in compliance.
Perhaps one of the busiest people since the concealed carry ban was revisited is 58th District Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highland Park), who has been meeting with public figures within the district and making presentations at public meetings to inform residents what the legislation means.
"These towns are all taking the law seriously," Drury told Patch in an interview last week. "We're not seeing any uniform way in handling it."
Highland Park, for example, passed an outright ban on assault weapons, whereas Deerfield passed an ordinance requiring assault weapons to be registered and safely stored. Lake Forest, on the other hand, recently tabled a discussion about putting a placeholder ordinance on the books so that the city does not lose the right to amend its assault weapons regulations once the concealed carry legislation is signed into law.
"I have made clear to everybody that this issue isn't a Second Amendment issue, it's a home rule local community issue," Drury said. "The state is trying to take away the community's ability to regulate itself."
By now, most home rule community residents know that the concealed carry legislation means that these communities need to get something on the books regarding assault weapons before the legislation is signed into law, or they lose that right forever. However, one of the more nuanced aspects of the concealed carry legislation is that, assuming a community gets an assault weapon ordinance in the books, that community can amend that ordinance to make it less or more restrictive anytime after.
"If you don't have anything you lose the right to ever do anything," Drury said.
It's this point that Drury has been trying to hammer home in his talks with residents and public figures.
"There are major consequences to a town not taking any action," Drury said. "If you don't enact a regulation you will lose that right."
Opponents to assault weapons regulations, like Highland Park City Councilman David Naftzger and Lake Forest Alderman Michael Adelman, argue that restrictions may lead to lawsuits against the communities that could be costly.
"It's not too hard to envision a city as prominent as Lake Forest… that we are not going to end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in litigating this ordinance," Adelman said at last week's City Council meeting.
Drury, however, points out that the ordinances can always be adjusted -- so long as there is an ordinance on the books before the 10 days after the concealed carry legislation is signed into law.
"This really is a home rule local control issue that the state is trying to usurp in asking these towns to give up a big part of their regulatory ability without knowing what they're giving up," he said. "That to me is a scary proposition."