Law takes aim at firearm sales
Gun dealers around the state have been hit with a new law that will impact more than who buys firearms. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 337 on Jan. 17, a holdover piece of legislation from the 100th General Assembly. Sen. John Cullerton placed the piece on hold March 31, shortly after the bill was approved by both chambers in the Statehouse.
Cullerton removed the hold just days before the incoming Democratic governor took office, denying Gov. Bruce Rauner the opportunity to veto it as he had previously done on a similar piece of legislation. While on the campaign trail, Pritzker pledged to sign the bill if it were to reach his desk.
Under the law’s Firearm Dealer License Certification Act, gun shop owners will now be required to have cameras and a monitored security system in stores on or before Jan. 2, 2021, according to the statute. The cameras, along with a security system altering law enforcement of break-ins, will be required in an effort to reduce the sale of stolen firearms.
Dustin Debrey, manager of Monster Guns, Arms and Ammo in Springfield, said he agrees that firearm dealers should have security systems and cameras, but he thinks some of the additional regulations are unnecessary. “I don’t believe for a second they’re looking at the safety of the people,” Debrey said. “It’s just to make money.”
Retail locations will be required to pay up to $1,500 to receive their certification while smaller gun shops will be charged the $300 minimum. Training on so-called “straw man” purchases is also required by the new legislation.
Debrey said the $1,500 certification fee won’t have a negative impact on Monster Guns, Arms and Ammo, but some of the smaller shops around Sangamon County may find any additional fees too much to bear.
A second component to the law, the Gun Trafficking Information Act, requires the Illinois State Police to maintain a database with known sellers, as well as the locations of incidents involving gun violence.
Private individuals will also need to make adjustments if they plan to sell a firearm, or other defensive weapons like a stun gun. The statute requires private sellers to maintain records of the transfer for 10 years.
Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who proposed SB337, has attempted to pass similar legislation for nearly two decades. “When I first introduced a version of this bill in 2003, I thought we would be having this celebration a little sooner,” Harmon said in a statement after Pritzker signed the bill.
Firearm advocacy groups around the state were quick to chime in with what they believe is an affront to the Second Amendment and a regulatory system already in place.
“The federal government already licenses gun dealers,” the Illinois State Rifle Association said in a statement. “There is no need to add yet another layer of bureaucracy on gun dealers.” The advocacy group also said they “will be challenging this new law in court” after taking a swing at the bill’s stated purpose to curb weapons trafficking and gun violence.
“The action taken is another assault on our Second Amendment right. Nothing in this bill is going to enhance public safety in Illinois. The only thing that is being accomplished here is the creation of a bureaucratic nightmare for gun dealers.”
In addition to the Illinois State Rifle Association’s opposition to the new law, some businesses are troubled by how it came about.
Debrey said he’s bothered with how the Democrat-controlled government placed the bill on hold until Pritzker took office, due to a similar bill being vetoed by Rauner.“That’s wrong. That’s improper. They were trying to bypass the system.”
Lindsey Salvatelli is an editorial intern with Illinois Times as part of the Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact her at email@example.com.