EDITORIAL: One way to crack down on shops that sell guns used in crimes

SHARE EDITORIAL: One way to crack down on shops that sell guns used in crimes

Police investigate a shooting about 10:30 p.m. Thursday in the 11500 block of Ashland Avenue in Chicago. | Justin Jackson/ Sun-Times

The news of the weekend was dominated by coverage of the killing of 10 people, mostly teenagers, at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

But who are we kidding here in Chicago?

More people than that were shot dead in our city in the last week or so, and it was an ordinary thing, like a budgeted cost of living in the big city.

For every person killed in Chicago, many more are wounded. On Thursday, 11 people were shot. On Wednesday, nine. The day before, eight. Earlier this month, almost 40 people were shot in just three days.

Of all the dozens of possible ways to slow the bloodshed in Chicago from a gush to a trickle, one of the biggest “small” solutions would be a state certification requirement for gun shops — a proposal now before the Legislature.

The bill’s odds of becoming law are shaky, but not beyond hope, and this is exactly where you might be able to make a difference. Call your state representative, especially if he or she has a lousy record on sensible gun laws, and give them an earful.

You can add your name to a petition in support of the bill, being circulated by the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, by going to ilgvp.com and clicking on “#OurOneJob Petition.”

And contact the governor, too. There’s an election coming up.


The gun shop certification bill got a boost on Tuesday when a revised version passed out of the state Senate just one vote shy of a veto-proof majority. Next, the House ought to pass this bill, and then Gov. Bruce Rauner should sign it, though he has signaled that he won’t.

Maybe Rauner would think differently if one of his many homes were located in Englewood or on the West Side.

Montessori School of Englewood students paint the name of one of the 291 schools across the United States that has been affected by gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 as part of the Schools Say Enough art installation on May 16. | Max Herm

Montessori School of Englewood students paint the name of one of the 291 schools across the United States that has been affected by gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 as part of the Schools Say Enough art installation on May 16. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Most gun shops in Illinois sell few or no guns that eventually turn up at crime scenes in Chicago. But a handful of shops sold hundreds of such “crime guns” from 2013 through 2016. Why should we let them sell hundreds more?

Creating an Illinois certification for gun shops would empower state authorities to insist that those shops adopt policies, such as training employees and preventing easy burglaries, that would slow the flow of firearms into the hands of criminals.

Responsible gun shops already take practical steps to prevent “straw purchases,” which are transactions in which somebody who legally can buy guns does so for somebody who cannot because of a criminal record or mental illness.

Good gun shops use video surveillance to track who is buying guns. Straw purchasers are spotted. Bad gun shops see no evil.

On Thursday, Rauner said a gun shop certification process would increase bureaucracy without increasing public safety.

That is nonsense.

We can only assume the governor has never read a city of Chicago report released last year showing that just two suburban gun shops sold 1,673 of the guns used in crimes in Chicago from 2013 through 2016.

Or, to look at it another way, each of those two shops sells a future crime gun, on average, almost every day and half that they’re open for business.

RELATED: 30 years after Laurie Dann our schoolchildren keep dying ’31 bullets’: A Sun-Times campaign

Gun dealers in Illinois, as in all states, are required to get federal licenses, but the federal government doesn’t really pay much attention. If a gun shop, for example, fails to keep an electronic inventory of its guns or install credible anti-theft protections, the feds pay no mind. State certification, however, would allow local law enforcement officials to hold accountable the handful of shops that are pipelines to criminals.

We are urging passage of this bill as part of our “31 bullets” campaign, in which this month we are identifying 31 concrete ways we can all work together to reduce gun violence in Illinois and across the nation. In Bullet 13, we single out the problem of “bad apple” gun dealers. Want to take action on that issue? Go to 31bullets.suntimes.com to find out how.


Last month, just before the Republican primary election in which he was fending off a staunchly pro-gun challenger, Rauner vetoed an earlier version of the gun shop certification bill. Instead of trying to override the governor’s veto, state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and other legislators rewrote it to gain more bipartisan support.

The revised bill reduces the certification process’ red tape, directs the Illinois State Police to track Firearm Owners’ Identification Card checks in gun sales to trace patterns of straw purchases, and creates penalties for gun sellers who ignore the requirement to keep records of sales for 10 years.

State certification of gun shops is one small — but utterly doable — part of the solution to gun violence in Chicago and all of Illinois.

Send your ideas about how to curb gun violence to letters@suntimes.com.

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