New regulations, new fees, and mountains of red tape could endanger the livelihood of current Illinois firearms dealers, and deter prospective owners from starting new ones to take their place, under Senate Bill 1657, which has now been approved by an Illinois House committee. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), will, among other things, mandate state licensing for all Illinois firearms dealers.
In a news conference following the bill’s passage in the Illinois Senate, Sen. Harmon also announced the formation of a new statewide effort dubbed the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. He said that licensed gun dealers are an important link between manufacturers and the public, and added that while he believed most Illinois gun dealers to be responsible, others are negligent, and even engage in practices that fuel illegal gun trafficking.
“Yes, many guns are being trafficked into our communities from outside of the state. But consider this: 40 percent of guns used in crimes in Chicago between 2009 and 2014 came from Illinois,” said Harmon as reported on his official website. “And the state of Illinois doesn’t have the tools and authority it needs to combat illegal or negligent business practices that threaten Illinois families.”
SB 1657 includes several changes to Illinois law, including requiring:
- new criminal background checks for gun-dealer employees with access to large inventories of firearms;
- added training and education for gun-dealer employees so that the background system “can work better;” and
- additional accountability from gun dealers by enabling state and law-enforcement officials to inspect inventories of licensed gun dealers for missing firearms.
“This type of effort is long overdue in Illinois,” added Harmon. “We’ve been working on these issues for a long time, and we’ve learned a lot.”
This bill has been especially controversial as the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA) received an exemption, and in turn did not oppose the bill.
Two notable Illinois firearms manufacturers – Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms – both associated with IFMA, have been accused of selling out the gun rights community, but each has denied acting in concert with IFMA. And both companies have expressed strong opposition to SB 1657.
“At the time of my initial statement to the media, I was ill-informed of the ramifications of this bill and its detrimental effects to the Second Amendment, which I have personally fought to protect my entire life,” said Dennis Reese, chief executive officer, Springfield Armory, in a statement on the company’s official blog. “I can tell you now, we at Springfield Armory are unequivocally 100 percent against this bill and will continue to work with the NRA and others to ensure that it is defeated.”
The Springfield Armory statement added that it has fought and defeated legislation in Illinois for the past 15 years.
Chuck Larson, president/owner of Rock River Arms, Inc. also issued a statement.
“In 2009, we partnered with other manufacturers to form an organization geared towards representing our interests — The Illinois Firearms
Manufacturers Association (IFMA),” he said. “Historically, that organization has done well in representing us in Springfield, Illinois. We had no reason to believe that it was doing anything beyond representing the firearms community’s (Illinois firearms manufacturers, dealers and gun owners) best interests, keeping us well-informed on relevant legislation and issues, acting on our behalf. In the case of SB 1657, there was a disconnect and that representation was misguided.”
SB 1657 is on its way to the Illinois House floor for final consideration.