Pritzker signs ‘long overdue’ gun dealer licensing bill, vows ‘more work to do’

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a bill signing also attended by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, second and third from left, and state Sen. Don Harmon, far right, on Thursday. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday signed into law a measure aimed at stemming the illegal flow of guns into the state while lamenting that there’s much more work to be done to stop gun violence in Chicago.

Pritzker — who took office on Monday – had vowed to sign the legislation during his campaign. A similar bill was vetoed by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said it would do little to increase public safety and would create a “big layer of bureaucracy.” And gun rights groups said it was redundant to have state oversight.

But advocates of the measure — including parents who have lost children to gun violence — stood alongside Pritzker, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and others at Ella Flagg Young Elementary School on the West Side to thank the Democratic governor for acting quickly to sign it into law.

“Even when there are setbacks, the resolve of these people never waivers,” Pritzker said of the many anti-violence groups who fought for the legislation.

“Gun violence isn’t just an issue facing one city, or one region, or one group of people. It affects all of us. This room full of survivors of gun violence, law enforcement and community groups, advocates and faith leaders is a testament to the widespread impact of gun violence,” Pritzker said. “Too many Illinoisans know the pain of that violence. Today is a long overdue step to do more to prevent gun violence, to make sure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands, to make sure that we license gun shops just like we do restaurants and other businesses. Perhaps more so because they deserve to be regulated. And this is critical.”

J.B. Pritzker signs gun control legislation at Ella Flagg Young Elementary School on the West Side. | Tina Sfondeles for the Sun-Times

J.B. Pritzker signs gun control legislation at Ella Flagg Young Elementary School on the West Side. | Tina Sfondeles for the Sun-Times

Pritzker called it a “common sense public safety reform.”

The measure, which saw everyone from Cardinal Blase Cupich to Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson advocating for it in Springfield, takes aim at gun shops that sell guns, only to have the buyer turn around and re-sell them on the streets to gang members. The bill Pritzker signed will require gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois State Police and not just the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. The initial measure vetoed by Rauner would have had the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation overseeing the dealers. Lawmakers passed the second version of the bill last year but held onto it procedurally to ensure Rauner wouldn’t veto it again.

The law will also require that gun dealers safely store firearms at all times; require gun dealers to make copies of Firearm Owner Identification cards or IDs and attach them to documentation detailing each gun sale; require employees to undergo annual training about the law and responsible business practices and require gun dealers to open their place of business for inspection by state and local police.

The bill’s chief sponsor state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, described the fight to stem straw purchasers as a 16-year battle. And Emanuel — who had pushed for the oversight for years — offered a jab at the former governor.

“I want to thank you for figuring out in four days what some other people couldn’t figure out in four years,” Emanuel said.

The Illinois State Rifle Association said in a statement that the law will hurt small dealers by making them pay more. And they called it “another assault on our 2nd Amendment rights.”

“Nothing in this bill is going to enhance public safety in Illinois,” the group said in a statement. “The only thing that is being accomplished here is the creation of a bureaucratic nightmare for gun dealers. Rest assured, we will be challenging this new law in court.

Speaking to reporters after the bill signing, Pritzker said he’d push for more funding for anti-violence and after-school programs during budget talks — and will push for a ban on bump stocks during the spring legislative session. He said while he supports a ban on assault weapons, he did not think the measure would be taken up this spring.

“Just because we’re signing this today, doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do,” Pritzker said.

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