A proposal that would give the state more oversight over Illinois gun dealers could be among the first big issues that land on Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker’s desk after he takes over, and an aide says he’d sign it.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the spring vetoed a bill that would have required the state to license and regulate gun shops. Lawmakers approved the plan in the wake of the killing of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer and the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Supporters contended that federal regulators are stretched too thin to regulate all the shops operating in Illinois. Rauner, though, called the proposal “duplicative” because the federal government already licenses firearms retailers. He said adding another layer of oversight would be costly for businesses and “do little to improve public safety.”
Lawmakers didn’t override Rauner’s veto, but they approved a new version. Likely knowing the governor would veto that one, too, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton in May put a procedural hold on the bill, keeping the paperwork off Rauner’s desk.
Now, Cullerton could release it in the coming weeks just before Pritzker is inaugurated on Jan. 14, steering the gun dealer licensing proposal into the Democratic governor’s hands instead of Rauner’s. There’s still time, though, for Cullerton to send it to Rauner.
“The Senate president and advocates continue to review their options with an eye toward making sure this bipartisan weapons safety proposal becomes law,” Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said in a statement.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said if the bill lands on the to-be governor’s desk: “Yep, he will sign it.”
Under the proposal, it would be illegal for retailers to sell guns without being certified by the state. To qualify, stores first must be licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Then, they would have to submit a copy of that license to the Illinois State Police, along with an affidavit declaring it remains valid. Shop owners would have to install surveillance equipment, maintain an electronic inventory, establish anti-theft measures and require employees to undergo annual training.
A certification would cost retailers a maximum of $1,500, and the regulations would apply to small businesses as well as big-box retailers. Sellers without a retail location would be charged $300 for certification.
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said on Friday “that bill is designed to run small firearms dealers out of business.”
A Pritzker signature on a gun store licensing bill could represent a new front in the fight between gun control supporters and Second Amendment advocates. Democrats next month will have big majorities in the Illinois House and Senate in addition to control of the Governor’s Mansion.
But gun politics in Illinois often split along regional divides in addition to partisan ones. That means some Democratic lawmakers in Downstate districts with a strong hunting culture may be less inclined to vote for new restrictions than their counterparts in Chicago who represent areas with a high occurrence of gun crimes. Similarly, Republicans in suburban districts are historically more open to restrictions than their colleagues in more rural areas.
“It’s going to be a battlefield for gun rights,” Pearson said.
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December 28, 2018 at 12:00PM