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IL

Illinois Legislature 

Seth Perlman, AP file

A bipartisan package of gun measures aimed at tackling illegal trafficking and requiring state-level certification of gun dealers emerged Tuesday from the ashes of failed attempts to license gun dealers.

The legislation -- attached as an amendment to Senate Bill 337 -- would require gun dealers to certify their federal license with the state police, calls for a study of gun trafficking data and imposes a penalty on private dealers who fail to keep adequate records of private sales.

It cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-3 and is now moving to the Senate floor.

State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, surrounded at an earlier press conference by a cadre of suburban lawmakers from both parties, said the bill accommodates the concerns from Republicans and gun dealers by setting up a more simple regulatory structure while still keeping with the spirit of the initial legislation.

"We really eliminated the red tape," Harmon said. "If you have a federal firearm license to sell guns in Illinois, you submit that to the state police along with an affidavit that this is in fact your license and it's still valid and the state issues you a certification."

Harmon's initial legislation, Senate Bill 1657, would have required gun dealers to register for a five-year license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The idea was to ensure that professional standards, like proper employee training and adequate video surveillance, were being met.

The effort ran into a wall of opposition from Republicans and pro-gun groups, who deemed it overly burdensome, duplicative and difficult to comply with. Other opponents took issue with a carve-out that exempted big-box stores.

Under the new legislation, enforcement would shift from IDFPR to the Illinois State Police. Plus, the big box store exemption has been eliminated. Gun dealers with a retail location will be charged no more than $1,500 for a three year certification while "kitchen table" dealers without a brick and mortar location would be charged no more than $300.

State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, the lead Republican sponsor, said "with these changes, this is a bill that I'm proud to support."

"As we talk about a comprehensive approach to making our communities safer and dealing with gun violence, there's no doubt in my mind that having safer practices and a better way of preventing gun trafficking originating from dealers in Illinois needs to be a significant piece of that comprehensive approach," Nybo said.

One compromise with gun shop owners were on penalties for private dealers who fail to keep a record of sales. Though required by law to do so, the penalties had no teeth, lawmakers said. If passed, a first offense would result in a misdemeanor charge while a second would be a Class 4 felony.

"We're imposing those consequences for the first time," Harmon said. "And we hope that this will lead to better law enforcement and more responsibility for folks who have purchased a gun from a gun dealer and then turn around an sell it to a criminal."

The changes were not enough for some, however. The three downstate members on the Senate Judiciary Committee opposed the bill. Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, expressed concern that the certification fee would be a burden on small gun dealers.

Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist with FFL-IL, expressed similar concerns, adding that the language of the bill was overly vague. Specifically, he took issue with phrase "adhering to responsible business practices."

"It's not defined anywhere in the bill," Vandermyde said. "Does that mean that if I sell more than one firearm to an individual, that that's not a responsible business practice?"

But, with a bipartisan roll in committee, lawmakers hope to get it through both chambers and to the governor's desk before the legislative session adjourns at the end of May.

With this coming just one day following Rauner's amendatory veto of House Bill 1468, which was an essential rewrite that included language that would bring back the death penalty for cop killers and mass murders, Democratic lawmakers issued a warning to Rauner: don't muddy the waters.

"One of the things that I do want to stress is this is what we consider a clean bill," said state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison. "We want to keep it that way."

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