Fight to license gun shops continues in Illinois Senate

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) is hoping to lead an override of the governor’s veto of a bill to license gun dealers in Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Don Harmon)

Illinois would see a significant drop in violent crime if gun dealers were licensed, according to one state senator.

For 16 years, state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has tried to get legislation passed to regulate gun dealers in the state. He was a few strokes of the pen away from his most recent effort becoming law as it passed the state House and Senate and only needed to be signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The governor, however, vetoed the legislation, saying the measure is “unnecessary” and “burdensome.”

Harmon said Rauner has failed to support the majority of Illinois residents who want gun dealers licensed.

“I am disappointed. It’s cowardly and political,” Harmon said of the veto.

Harmon said he will now focus his attention on trying to get support to override the veto. The measure passed the Senate, 30-21, and the House, 64-52 — neither veto-proof majorities. For an override to be successful, Harmon and other proponents would need to pick up two more votes in the Senate and six more votes in the House.

“We had one Republican vote (in the Senate when the measure passed last year) and there are a handful of lawmakers who should pass it based on the views of their constituents,” Harmon said.

That lone Republican vote in the April 2017 vote was state Sen. Tom Rooney of Rolling Meadows. Former Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno voted “present” on the matter. She has since been replaced by state Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove), who has voted for banning bump stocks, increasing the age of purchasing and ownership of assault weapons to 21, and increasing the waiting period for purchasing an assault weapon from 24 to 72 hours. So he is another potential Republican vote for an override.

Senate Democrats could easily override the veto without even reaching across the aisles as state Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant of Shorewood, William Haine of Alton, Michael Hastings of Tinley Park, Linda Holmes of Aurora, Dave Koehler of Peoria, Andy Manar of Bunker Hill and Steve Stadelman of Rockford all were absent from the Senate when the gun-dealer licensing vote was taken.

Tom Cullerton of Villa Park was the only Democrat in the state Senate to vote against the proposal.

Rauner said the legislation doesn’t make the streets safer as proposed and only hurts small businesses.

“It’s just not right,” Rauner said in vetoing the requirement that gun dealers be licensed in the state. “It’s unnecessary burdensome legislation. It’s redundant on top of existing federal regulations. It’s crushing to our small-business owners and creates bureaucracy that really doesn’t help keep our communities any safer.”

Harmon said gun dealers are currently only nominally regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“The ATF is stretched thin. They have 24 agents for all 2,400 gun dealers in Illinois and northern Indiana,” Harmon said. “They audit gun dealers every four or five years. They are not looking at patterns. They are not figuring out why guns are ending up in the hands of the wrong people.”

Harmon noted that a poll conducted by WeAskAmerica in May 2016 found that 85 percent of Illinoisans support licensing gun dealers at the state level and that only 9 percent of people don’t. He said it is time to make the sensible measure law.

“I am asking the governor to stand up for the people he reportedly is supposed to represent,” the Oak Park senator said. “We are just asking that Illinois gun dealers follow best practices by being licensed. If you want to be a barber or a dog groomer in Illinois, you have to have a license. Why shouldn’t gun dealers also be required to have a license?”

Harmon said he will work with Senate leaders to try to override the governor’s veto. If that fails, he said, he will go back and work on crafting additional legislation to get gun dealers licensed in the state.

“I’ve been working on this for 16 years. I’m not going to stop now,” Harmon said.

He expects that Rauner will sign one of the gun-control measures passed by the General Assembly to give the allusion that something is getting done.

“I suspect he’ll likely sign the bump stock legislation. It’s low-hanging fruit,” Harmon said. “It is not going to stop the violence on the streets of our country.”

He said licensing would have an impact on safety across the state.

“I think it will make a big difference,” Harmon said. “Forty percent of gun crimes in the state have guns traced back to Illinois gun dealers.”

He said the 26 states that already require licensing of gun dealers have seen a significant drop in gun violence. Harmon noted that local legislation passed by the village of Lyons requiring the gun shop within its borders to have a license has not been an issue for the store.

“It is not an undue burden on the gun shop. In fact, it cooperates with the village,” Harmon said. “I think it is a low-cost way to take a big chunk out of crime.”





— Fight to license gun shops continues in state Senate —-