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House and Rauner can seize rare chance to combat illegal guns

Police investigate the scene of a quadruple homicide on the city's South Side on Dec. 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Three people were found shot to death inside a home in the Fernwood neighborhood, another 2 were found shot outside the home, one of those deceased. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For the first time in years, an important piece of legislation to combat the flow of illegal guns in Illinois has a chance to make it through the state Legislature. We can do this, people.

The bill, which passed in the Illinois Senate last week with bipartisan support, would require gun dealers to be licensed by Illinois and would encourage business practices designed to discourage illegal gun trafficking.

The bill would give the state a tool to crack down on the small handful of gun shops that are known sources of large numbers of firearms that turn up on crime scenes. Gun dealers already are federally licensed, but rarely are they investigated by feds.

EDITORIAL

The bill also would require gun shops to train and educate their employees on how to properly do background checks and how to spot gun traffickers.

Illegal guns — and not, we stress, legal ones — are a scourge in Chicago. Last weekend, four people were killed and 17 were wounded by guns in the city. More than 1,000 people have been shot this year. In virtually every shooting, an illegally owned gun is the weapon.

We hope the Illinois House takes up this bill as soon as it returns to session next week, and Gov. Bruce Rauner should do his utmost to ensure the bill makes it to his desk. No major gun reform bill has yet come Rauner’s way, but he has said he favors of common-sense gun laws. This one’s about as common-sense as it gets. It is not anti-gun, only anti-illegal gun.

We understand that with an election coming up next year, Rauner is not eager to alienate voters on either side of contentious issues. But we also know the governor can’t continue to duck all social issues as he single-mindedly focuses on our state’s weak economy. The governor did not take an oath of office customized to his particular concerns, and this gun bill is too important to ignore.

Laws aimed at curtailing illegal guns generally get support in the city and resistance Downstate. To make it through the House, this bill will need support from suburban legislators, some of whom in the past have been leery of antagonizing gun-advocacy groups.

State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who has been pushing state licensing of gun dealers since 2003 without getting it through the Senate before, says targeted polling shows more than 80 percent of gun owners in the suburbs support it. Overall, more than 90 percent of people do, he said.

Harmon’s bill, backed by a coalition of 107 groups, got enough support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass the Senate. We hope to see that same pattern in the House.

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