Pritzker signs law to certify Illinois gun dealers
It also calls on gun owners to record private sales to deter straw purchases
By Ted Cox
Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law Thursday to place gun dealers under government scrutiny and deter straw purchases of guns for those who shouldn’t have them.
Surrounded by gun-control advocates and those who’ve lost family members to gun violence, the new governor signed Senate Bill 337 into law at Ella Flagg Young Elementary School on the West Side of Chicago. It calls for gun dealers to be certified by the State Police, and for gun owners to keep a record of private sales in order to deter straw purchases.
Citing the bill’s bipartisan support, Pritzker called it “a long-overdue step to do more to prevent gun violence, to make sure guns don't fall into the wrong hands, to make sure that we license gun shops just like restaurant and other businesses, and deter straw purchases, so that we can prevent someone from buying a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to own a gun.”
In a swipe at former Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “It only took Gov. Pritzker four days — not four years — to realize that if the state can license a barber shop or a liquor store, we can license gun dealers.” He said it would “reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets and allow the Chicago Police to further crack down crime.”
Rauner vetoed a bill to license Illinois gun dealers last March. After lead sponsor state Sen. Don Harmon immediately passed another bill through the General Assembly on gun-dealer certification and recording private sales, Rauner said he would veto that as well, but it was kept off the governor’s desk until Pritzker took office this week.
“Gun violence is a complex problem, and no one law will solve it,” Harmon said Thursday. "But we know that other states that have enacted similar laws to this one have seen a reduction in guns used in crimes. I am grateful to Gov. Pritzker for signing this legislation into law.”
Advocates emphasized the law would have little to no effect on those who legally own guns and would have a minimal effect on dealers who operate within the law.
“This bipartisan law will not harm any gun dealer that operates in good faith, but it does ensure accountability for dealers that fail to make efforts to keep guns from falling into the hands of criminals," said state Rep. Kathleen Willis, lead sponsor in the House. "I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and Gov. Pritzker for their support on this important measure.”
“This bipartisan law will not harm any gun dealer that operates in good faith.”
State Rep. Kathleen Willis (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Attorney General Kwame Raoul cheered the new law as part of “a comprehensive approach to addressing the level of violence in Illinois, and that includes stopping the flow of guns trafficked into Illinois.”
According to the most recent Chicago “Gun Trace Report,” published in 2017, Chicago Police take about 7,000 guns a year off the streets, but last year, as the city made an issue of combating gun violence, they confiscated almost 10,000. According to the report, over the four-year period from 2013 through 2016, more than 40 percent of the confiscated weapons were traced to Illinois dealers, but more than 20 percent came from Indiana, followed by Mississippi and Ohio — pointing out the need for national gun control.
The report said three of the top five dealers supplying confiscated guns were located in suburban Chicago: Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Midwest Sporting Goods in Lyons, and Shore Galleries in Lincolnwood. But the other two were located in northwest Indiana: Westforth Sports in Gary and Cabela’s in Hammond.
According to the Governor’s Office, Illinois gun dealers will be required to “provide annual training to employees, have video surveillance in gun stores, and be open for inspection by (Illinois State Police) and local law enforcement” to gain certification.
State Police will also be charged “to publish key information related to crime-related firearms and impose penalties on individuals who fail to maintain a record of a private sale” in an attempt to deter straw purchases, in which someone buying a gun legally might pass it on to someone who is not, such as most convicted felons or those on probation for committing a gun crime.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the most prosecuted offense in her office last year was illegal use of a weapon. “It is past time that we do more to keep illegal firearms off of our streets,” she said, calling the bill signing “a step in the right direction.”
Delphine Curry, who has lost two children to gun violence, applauded Gov. Pritzker for signing the new law, saying, “This bill will make sure gun dealers are held accountable and stop them from illegally selling guns like the one used to kill my daughter.”