New Gun Dealer Licensing Proposal Addresses Illegal Sales

May 16, 2018

Sen. Harmon (D - Oak Park), center, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. He is joined by a group of lawmakers to propose a new effort to license gun dealers and address illegal gun sales in the state.

After Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a proposal to license gun dealers, several legislators are suggesting a new, bipartisan approach in hopes of getting his support.

Rauner previously said he found the measure too burdensome for small gun shop owners. Other opponents, like Republican state Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst, said they thought the process was too bureaucratic. 

After Rauner vetoed the measure, state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, unsuccessfully lobbied for an override vote. Harmon said not enough House members could vote in favor. So, he decided to work with legislators to amend an existing bill with language from the original proposal, one that could garner more bipartisan support.

In a Tuesday press conference, several lawmakers joined Harmon -- including Nybo. Nybo said while he didn’t support the first measure, he can get behind the new effort because it streamlines the certification process and treats dealerships the same, regardless of size.  The previous version made a distinction between smaller shops and larger chain stores.

“What we’ve done is we’ve taken a bill in my opinion, that was difficult for businesses and difficult for the state and that really had a penalizing an onerous effect on law-abiding businesses," Nybo said. 

Under the amendments, all gun shop dealers would need to be certified by the Illinois State Police instead of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, as was previously suggested. Proponents said this would clarify the process. Dealers with a retail location would need to pay a fee of $1,500 and non-retailers a fee of $300 -- both good for three years. 

The proposed amendment goes further and addresses not just Rauner's concerns about small business owners, but also a statewide concern about illegally owned firearms used in crimes. The new version adds penalties for individuals who don’t maintain records of private sales and asks the Illinois State Police to release data on guns used in crimes. 

Despite the revamp, some remain unconvinced. Todd Vandermyde, executive director of the Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, said he still disagrees with the idea of increased regulations, especially with proposed rules about video cameras in gun shops.

The House sponsor,  state Rep. Katheleen Willis, an Addison Democrat, said the new effort has received more support from lawmakers who were once opposed. She said she hopes this will encourage Rauner to sign the measure once it gets the approval from the General Assembly. 

Meanwhile, Rauner recently rejected a different plan to regulate firearms and used his veto pen to add suggestions to restore the death penalty for mass shooters and those who murder police.