Gun-safety advocates are applauding Illinois House action to license gun dealers, ban mechanisms to create semi-automatic weapons, and increase the age for individuals to legally possess semi-automatic weapons.
The House last week approved the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, aimed at cracking down on illegal gun sales; prohibiting bump stocks and trigger cracks used to turn guns into semi-automatic weapons; and legislation to require the purchaser or owner of a semi-automatic firearm in Illinois to be at least 21 years of age.
Representatives of the Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, said that the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, would protect the public and help prevent gun violence by cracking down on illegal gun sales, reducing gun thefts and holding corrupt gun dealers accountable.
“Across the state and across the political spectrum, people know we have to do more to prevent gun violence,” said Lauren Quinn of the Illinois Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “For years, Illinois gun violence prevention advocates have been urging lawmakers to address illegal firearm trafficking with strong dealer licensing legislation, and the General Assembly responded with action.
“No law will end Illinois gun violence by itself but communities across the state will be safer if the governor enacts the public safety bill.”
The legislation now heads to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In a 64-52 vote Feb. 28, the House approved the licensing legislation that requires:
- Background checks for gun store employees.
- Gun dealers to keep their business premises open for inspection by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations and law enforcement during business hours.
- Training for gun store employees on responsible business practices and the laws applicable to selling firearms.
- Video surveillance and alarm systems installed for all brick and mortar locations.
- New stores not to operate within 500 feet of any school.
State Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) said the measure gives dealers
more structure and will cut down on illegal gun sales.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been working on this for over a decade,” Willis said. “This takes into account small mom-and-pop operations as we have put a cap on what the costs will be to get a license. The intent is not to take guns away. We are not affecting the Second Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution). We are making sure gun shops are at the best level they can be and that they are following the best business practices they can.”
Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) was one of five House Republicans who voted for the measure.
“I pledged long ago to protect the Second Amendment. I think we get a little confused … This bill is not impacting Second Amendment rights. This is not a Second Amendment debate. It is clear we have not done enough in the state of Illinois. We cannot rely on federal regulation or the federal structure. We are proposing a continuing education requirement and background checks for employees. Doing nothing is no longer an option.”
Other House Republicans voting for the gun shop licensing requirement were: Peter Breen of Lombard, David Harris of Arlington Heights, Michael McAuliffe of Chicago and David Olsen of Downers Grove.
Seven House Democrats voted against the measure. They were: Monica Bristow of Godfrey, Jerry Costello of Smithton, Natalie Phelps Finnie of Elizabethtown, Mike Halpin of Rock Island, Jay Hoffman of Swansea, Sue Scherer of Decatur and Lawrence Walsh of Joliet.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) balked at the legislation, citing a provision that exempted big-box stores that sell firearms from the requirements.
“Stores that do not do so much gun business, like Wal-Marts and Targets, will be excluded and ma-and-pa gun stores that know their customers and know the gun laws will be regulated,” Skillicorn said. “So a minimum-wage employee at Wal-Mart is going to make the decision if someone is of sound mind. Why exclude (big-box stores)? This is not a gun bill; it is an anti-small business bill.”
Willis said that businesses that have less than 20 percent of their overall revenue from gun sales are exempt from the legislation. She noted that gun traces have not been a problem with big-box stores.
Other passed legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines), bans bump stocks and trigger cranks that can turn rifles into semi-automatic weapons.
“I’ve seen enough. It is now time to act and do something about these heinous mass shootings,” Moylan said. “We need to put our children and families first by passing common-sense gun reforms, and this can be a simple bipartisan measure that even the president has to agree to.”
Bump stocks and trigger cranks are used to increase a rifle’s rate of fire. In October, the Las Vegas shooter used bump stock modifications to enable his semi-automatic rifle to shoot like a fully automatic rifle, capable of firing 800 bullets per minute, resulting in 58 casualties and more than 500 wounded.
Current law bans machine guns and prohibits weapons that fire more than one round per function of the trigger. Moylan noted that gun manufacturers have created loopholes around the current law by creating bump stocks and trigger cranks to accelerate the rate at which the trigger is technically “pulled.” He said his legislation would ban those loopholes.
“I will continue to stand up for children and families throughout our communities, Moylan said. “It’s an uphill battle, and I will not back down because if we can pass common-sense gun reforms and even one life is saved because of these measures, it will all be worth it.”
State Rep. David Harris, who spent 33 years in the military, said that an automatic weapon is used for one reason: to inflict maximum injury and death.
“In my opinion, it is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace, that in the four months after 58 people were murdered in Las Vegas that at the national and state level we have not put a ban on bump stocks. What in the world?” Harris asked. “Why do you need an automatic weapon? There is no reason. I don’t care what you call the devise – you can call it a ‘four-slice toaster’ – if it causes a semi-automatic to fire like an automatic, it ought to be banned in Illinois. This is our chance to do it.”
The bump stock ban passed in an 83-31 vote.
House Republicans voting for the measure were: Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, Mark Batinick of Plainfield, Patti Bellock of Hinsdale, Chad Hayes of Catlin, Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Leland Grove, Bob Pritchard of Hinckley, Grant Wehrli of Naperville, David Welter of Morris, Barbara Wheeler of Crystal Lake, Keith Wheeler of Oswego, Christine Winger of Wood Dale, Steve Andersson, Peter Breen, David Harris, Michael McAuliffe and David Olsen.
Two House Democrats — Monica Bristow and Natalie Phelps Finnie — voted against the bump stock ban.
Skillicorn said that the wording of the legislation was vague and that a clean bump stock bill, proposed by Republicans, was sitting in committee.
He said that using belt loops has been proven to speed the firing of weapons.
“From this legislation, you could make the insinuation that everyone with a belt loop is a felon,” Skillicorn said. “Through this legislation, people in shooting competitions would be made felons. There are millions of these products in our state. I cannot support a bill that makes millions of our constituents felons.”
Willis said that there is no place for bump stocks in anyone’s gun collection.
In presenting the bill to increase the age of owning or purchasing an assault weapon to 21, state Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg) said the legislation was a reasonable compromise, noting that individuals serving in the military or participating in sports involving guns would be exempted from the law.
“We limit other things to age 21, like renting a car,” Mussman said. “This is a step we can take to protect our children from violence.”
Should the legislation become law, anyone under the age of 21 would have 90 days to transfer ownership of an assault weapon to another individual.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler said the bill would add to law enforcement’s duties by requiring officers to collect weapons from individuals who are currently law-abiding citizens.
State Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) said the Legislature was attacking the right to bear arms with the bill.
“Why 21? I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution that says an age,” Reick said. “The ability to drive or to drink is a privilege. It is not at the same level as a right. The reason the Constitution is silent about age for rights is because individuals are born with them. You don’t have to reach a certain age to reach inalienable rights.”
Increasing the age to buy semi-automatic weapon passed 64-51.
House Republicans voting for raising the age were Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Michael McAuliffe.
House Democrats voting against the measure were Monica Bristow and Natalie Phelps Finnie.
—- Licensing of gun dealers, ban on bump stocks advance —–