SPRINGFIELD - Driven by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, gun-control legislation designed to ban assault weapons and the ammunition that feeds them passed a Senate panel late Wednesday, setting the stage for likely floor votes on Thursday.
The Democratic measures advanced out of the Senate Public Health Committee, which historically has been dominated by gun-control advocates, on party-line votes.
"The goal is to reduce the amount of incidents that occur where there are a significant amount of people shot in a short period of time," said Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), the chief Senate sponsor of legislation banning the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines that allow shooters to fire at high speeds without reloading.
His proposal, which passed by a 6-3 vote, accompanied a measure sponsored by Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) that would impose similar restrictions on military-style weapons, like the ones used in last month's murders of 26 people in Connecticut, 20 of whom were children.
Both measures were fought by the National Rifle Association.
"You don't hunt with a 50-caliber weapon, my friend," Munoz derisively told NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde before the panel voted for the weapons ban by a 6-4 vote.
Earlier, Vandermyde ridiculed how Democrats were aiming to restrict responsible gunowners from protecting themselves in the same manner as police officers or the state's top elected officials, like Gov. Pat Quinn or Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are through their security details.
"I don't understand why certainly the only ones who think their lives and their families, like the mayor and governor, are worthy of armed guard protection 24-7, yet now they want to dictate the terms and conditions I or my family use to protect ourselves when I have gang members living down the block in the suburbs," Vandermyde told the panel.
Late Wednesday, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told the Chicago Sun-Times that he expects both measures to get full Senate votes on Thursday. Senate Democratic sources predicted ultimate narrow passage of the contentious legislation, but Cullerton was not prepared to publicly handicap things that way.
I don't know yet. We didn't do any roll calls yet," Cullerton said when asked to assess the measures' likelihood of passing the full Senate. "We just got them out of committee. People are working them."
See also: State must pass concealed carry law.