EDITORIAL: Governor, please don’t veto Illinois’ best bet to limit gun violence
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Illinois got a little safer this week as Gov. Bruce Rauner signed two bills to reduce gun violence. We’re glad the governor took a stand in favor of commonsense gun-law reform.
Unfortunately, the governor said he plans to veto the most significant gun-violence reform of this year’s legislative session when it finally lands on his desk. We hope he takes the time to carefully research the bill — which would require state certification of gun dealers — and changes his mind.
One of the bills Rauner signed Monday will allow family members or police to ask the courts to take guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others, either as a two-week emergency period or for six months, with the possibility of an extension. The law is a way to keep firearms out of the hands of people who, as the governor said, are “deemed to be too dangerous.”
Until now, family members could see the risk of a looming tragedy, yet they could do little about it.
The second bill Rauner signed will require a 72-hour waiting period for all gun purchases, not just for handguns. That also makes sense. If someone rushes off to buy an AR-15 and can’t wait 72 hours to pick it up, odds are high people are going to be hurt.
Both of the bills Rauner signed will help reduce gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of one individual for a time. But, even taken together, they address only a small part of our gun violence.
That’s why we hope Rauner signs the bill requiring gun dealer certification in Illinois and that, in the event of a veto, the Legislature overrides it. Gun dealer certification would directly reduce the number of guns flowing onto city streets, where they are used to commit crimes by people who can’t legally own them.
As the Sun-Times pointed out in its recent “31 bullets” series, gun laws are riddled with loopholes that lead to carnage. Just on Sunday, three people were killed and five were wounded in city shootings. Six more were shot on Monday. To make a real difference, we need to close as many loopholes as possible.
People who are barred from owning guns often can get one just by heading to a gun shop or sending their friends. Most gun shops carefully adopt procedures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but a handful sell hundreds of guns every year that turn up at Chicago crime scenes.
In theory, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates those gun shops. But the ATF rarely stops in to check on particular shops and, as the New York Times reported last month, senior ATF officials regularly allow gun dealers who fail inspections to blithely keep on selling, even those dealers who repeatedly were warned to follow the rules.
In one example cited by the Times, an Ohio dealer repeatedly sold firearms to people who appeared to be prohibited from owning them, including an admitted felon. Yet the dealer was allowed to keep on selling guns, even though felons can’t legally have a gun. All the dealer got was another warning to ignore.
In Illinois, a handful of shops have sold hundreds of “crime guns” — guns that later turn up at crime scenes. Just two suburban gun shops sold 1,673 of the guns used in crimes in Chicago from 2013 through 2016, according to a city of Chicago report released last year. Requiring certification would give the state a tool to keep those guns away from criminals. Do we really want guns to keep flying off the shelves into the hands of criminals?
With the possibility of their certification being revoked, those shops would be motivated to train employees to prevent easy burglaries and sales to “straw purchasers” who buy guns for others who can’t legally own one. One way to do that is to use video surveillance to track who is actually buying the guns.
In vetoing an earlier version of the certification bill, Rauner said it would increase red tape without making anyone safer. He said the same thing Monday, even though the bill was rewritten to eliminate the red tape he objected to.
Red tape isn’t the horror in Illinois, it’s the red blood on the streets. Here’s hoping Rauner figures that out.
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