SPRINGFIELD — Just one day after being introduced, a gun dealer licensing compromise bill passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.
The legislation, Senate Bill 337, passed 35-18, with three Republicans joining the majority of Democrats in support.
If signed into law, it would require gun dealers to certify their federal license with the Illinois State Police. It also calls for a study of gun trafficking data and imposes a penalty on private dealers who fail to keep adequate records of private sales.
The effort rose from the ashes of a failed attempt to license gun shops at the state level. That bill, 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.
It was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in March, however, and attempts to garner support for an override were unsuccessful with opponents deeming the bill overly burdensome, duplicative and difficult to comply with and enforce.
But the new approach and willingness to compromise attracted some suburban Republicans who were previously opposed. State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, said the new legislation eliminates red tape and is more focused on key objectives — to ensure dealers are complying with best practices and to punish bad actors.
"... If you don't run your shop safely or you enable gun trafficking or you allow allow straw purchases or you do anything else illegal in connection with firearms transactions, we will go after you, we will stop you and we will attempt to penalize you," Nybo said.
Under the legislation, enforcement would shift away from Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to state police. Plus, a big box store exemption in the previous bill 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.
The bill is also aimed at making private dealers more accountable for keeping records of sales. Though required by law to do so, the penalties have no teeth. If passed, a first offense would result in a misdemeanor charge while a second would be a Class 4 felony.
Most lawmakers from conservative, downstate districts voted "no." Rising in "respectful opposition," state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the bill goes after the wrong people.
"There is no demonstrable evidence that the people who are abiding by the law and legally selling firearms in this state are the issue here," Righter said.
But state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said it was impossible to simply go after the bad actors. He added it puts everyone on notice that best practices must be followed.
"Every gun used in the state of Illinois to kill someone starts as a legal gun," Harmon said. "Somewhere between the manufacturer and the crime scene, someone who is pretending to be a law-abiding gun owner is not. This bill attacks that problem."
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 2387, which would require a person who takes possession of firearms from someone not eligible to have them to sign an affidavit recognizing their responsibilities under the law.
Lawmakers say it could have prevented incidents like last month's Waffle House shooting in Tennessee. The shooter's FOID card was revoked, but his firearms were returned to him by his father, who lives in Illinois.
"While we unfortunately cannot take back what happened, we can ensure our laws are modeled to prevent this from ever happening again," said state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield.
Both bills now head to the House. Over there on Wednesday, Rauner received the first official response to his amendatory veto of House Bill 1468.
State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, has filed a motion to accept Gov. Bruce Rauner's changes to the bill, which was initially approved as a 72-hour cooling period for assault weapons purchases.
The move comes two days after Rauner used his amendatory veto power to essentially rewrite the bill to expand the cooling period to include all gun purchases, create a mechanism for guns to temporarily be taken away from those deemed dangerous and, perhaps most controversially, bring back the death penalty for cop killers and mass murderers.
Carroll said he was not consulted by Rauner prior to the changes and was disappointed in the governor's approach but that he would remain open in the interest of keeping communities safe.
"My focus remains on enacting serious gun laws that keep deadly, military-style assault rifles off our streets, and keep our children, our schools and our communities safe," Carroll said. "I will not let the governor end debate by forcing a political stalemate, and that is why I filed the motion to accept the governor's amendatory veto."
Carroll said he is seeking to understand the amendatory veto process better while also starting conversations on some of the items Rauner added to the bill, which is now in the Rules Committee.