Pioneer Press, April 7, 2004

Legislators keeping busy


Local legislators will be returning from Springfield this week after voting on some interesting legislation.

One of the bills, which lowers the age for a person to buy a state firearm permit to 18, passed in the Senate, but showed how big and culturally different the state is.

State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said he opposed the bill in committee, but is listed as abstaining from the vote. He said at the time votes were being taken he was off the floor taking care of some constituent business.

He said he sees the law as a weakening of gun laws which are already under assault.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) voted no and said she hopes the House will follow suit, although the measure passed in the Senate.

"I don't believe we should lower the age requirement to 18," she said. "They are not adults until they are 21. You can count on me to never support a bill that allow juveniles to carry a gun. A requirement like this would not be good for a metropolitan area that has a lot of gang activity and things of that nature. I hope the House will vote it down and the governor will veto it if it passes."

State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) said she would not vote in favor of it when it comes to the House. She said the bill was sponsored by lawmakers downstate, where people do a lot of hunting. She believes the legislation would be disastrous in the communities she serves if passed.

Another bill approved by the Senate that is pending in the House would allow a self-defense claim to be used to override municipal handgun bans, including Oak Park.

Harmon did not vote in favor of it.

"The gun advocates have been trying for years to weaken municipal ordinances on handgun bans," he said. " They are trying to make legislation to preempt home-rule decisions. I voted no. It's really an unnecessary ordinance. I live in Oak Park, one of the first communities to ban handguns. I don't think we should put in legislation that would revoke their (municipalities) home-rule powers."

Lightford said this legislation is a way to allow more guns to get on the street.

"I can't support any gun bills that will allow guns on the street," she said.

She said the legislation also specifies what kinds of guns a person can use to make a self-defense claim.

"It (the legislation) begins to say what kind of gun it is you can use," she said. "You try to defend yourself. Then, once you find out it wasn't the type of gun you were supposed to have, you're wrong. They should be more specific."

Yarbrough said she would not vote in favor of this as well. "With the problems that come up in Maywood, I just think that opens the door for more," she said. Another bill which failed in the House was a ban on the slaughter and transport of horse meat for human consumption. A slaughtering plant for horses plans to open up in DeKalb. Harmon said the bill has his support as well.

"I don't think Illinois should be in the business of slaughtering horses for human consumption," he said. "I found it appalling and offensive," said Yarbrough, who voted for the ban. "I like to ride horses, but I don't eat them."

"On this particular issue I'm voting for it," Lightford said. "We don't want the horse considered as an animal that can be used for human consumption."