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(posted by Dennis Wagner)

On March 1st, Illinois Senate Bill 1657 was sent to the Gov. Rauner's desk to be signed. It was one of several gun control measures that the governor has 60 days to sign. Given the controversial nature of these bills, it is likely that Rauner will not do anything with them until after the March 20th primary election, leaving us to wonder where he stands. Under the proposed rules for gun retailers, any one who sells, leases or transfers at least 10 firearms per year will have to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation at a cost currently limited to $1,000 every five years. Under Illinois law, gun dealers and their employees would be required to take training on how to conduct background checks, store guns, prevent theft and thwart straw purchases. A similar bill failed last year, but succeeded in both the Senate and the house by healthy margins after recent events in Chicago and Parkland Florida.

SUPPORTERS OF THE BILL ARGUE ... that the law is needed to stop a small but significant number of gun dealers who are engaging in illegal practices or falling short of federal guidelines. Today, gun dealers in Illinois are required to have a federal gun licence and follow the rules of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), but critics argue that limitations of federal enforcement practices and loopholes, are allowing some gun dealers to circumvent the laws. One of biggest concern is the inability of the ATF to trace the guns used to commit crimes or investigate dealers. In 2017, the Chicago Sun times reported that "nearly 17 percent of all the guns used in crimes in Chicago were sold by just three of the state’s gun dealers." (Sun Times 2017).

SB1657 would make it unlawful for a person engaged in the business of selling, leasing, or otherwise transferring firearms to do so without an Illinois dealer license. Any one caught advertising or acting as a licensed dealer without a proper licence is subject to a Class A misdemeanor for the first violation and a Class 4 felony charge for repeat offenses. In addition, the law carries a civil penalty of up to $10,000. Licensed dealers must be 21 years or older, have a valid FOID card or concealed carry license, take a background check, and have at least one year prior experience as a federal firearms dealer or employee of one.

OPPONENTS OF THE BILL ARGUE ... that the bill opens the door to overbearing regulation of gun dealers. At the core of their concern is the Gun Dealer licensing board created by the Bill. The board will be made up of 5 members appointed by the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation and will have the power to recommend new policies, procedures and rules relevant to the administration and enforcement of the act. Gun Dealers and their supporters argue that this gives broad power to only 5 individuals who could be easily swayed by interest groups including gun control political action groups and big box stores. The current law leaves to much unwritten including fees, penalties , training requirements, security requirements, written exams and inspection details. They fear that new rules and even the fear of future regulations and fees will drive small gun dealers out of Illinois. The current Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation is Bryan A. Schneider who was appointed in 2015. The Secretary, under this law would have the power to appoint the board members and recommend their removal subject to a majority vote of the board.

UNSUBSTANTIATED FEARS. As with any new law, we need to be careful not to believe everything we hear. While there are very valid reasons why this bill should be vetoed by Governor Rauner. We need to be careful not to raise unnecessary alarms. An article in thetruthaboutguns.com listed some pretty serious concerns about this bill making it sound as if it was introducing new laws on gun owners. Yet a more thorough reading of the law shows that these are not new laws, but just a requirement that the licensee must post warnings about existing laws. The article claimed the following three things would be outlawed by this bill.

1. To store or leave an unsecured firearm in a place where a child can obtain access to it.
2. To sell or transfer your firearm to someone else without receiving approval for the transfer from the Department of State Police.
3. Failure to report the loss or theft of your firearm to local law enforcement within 72 hours.

While all three of these provisions are included in the bill, the article failed to point out that they are existing laws. They also failed to point out that it only applies to gun dealers who transfer more than 10 firearms per year. The new bill exempts anyone who transfers less than 10 firearms per year. It also excludes individuals who sell collections, and institutions like museums.

To learn more about these laws, visit www.ichv.org/legislation/illinois-state-gun-laws/

The restriction on transferring a firearm without contacting the State Police is from the Gun Safety and Responsibility Act which took effect in January 2014 .

GOVERNOR RAUNER SHOULD VETO THIS BILL. While, there are valid concerns about gun dealers in Illinois failing to abide by federal regulations and supply guns to criminals, a bill like this should not be rushed through as a reaction to recent events. Additional study of the pros and cons of such a bill needs to be further considered and additional safeguards are needed to ensure that a runaway board does not make it impossible for small gun dealers to do business in Illinois. At the same time, we need to be careful not to over-react to specific revisions in the bill and cause political fallout. There were some very good and well-meaning Republicans who supported this bill. While, we may think they made a bad decision, we must not throw false accusations at them about this bill.

References used






www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/98/098-0508.htm (Gun Safety and Responsibility Act)
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