Senate Democrats on Wednesday opted to skip an attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a measure that would have required gun dealers to be licensed by the state — giving the governor and fellow Republicans who opposed it a glimpse of victory.
As thousands took to the streets in Springfield to support their Second Amendment rights to own guns, bill sponsor state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said he made the “difficult decision” not to ask the Senate to override the veto. Wednesday marked the last day to do so. Rauner vetoed the measure on March 13, just days ahead of the primary election.
“While I am confident that I had the votes in the Senate to override the veto, I could not assure my colleagues that the House would vote against the governor, particularly given his vociferous and unreasonable opposition to this measure,” Harmon said in a statement.
Harmon said he has had “productive conversations” with suburban Republican members, and will reintroduce the measure as an amendment to another bill in order to work quickly to build support.
“Licensing gun dealers at the state level is a sensible step to reduce gun violence, and I will not give up,” Harmon said in a statement. “I am sure we will enact this measure — under this administration or the next.”
The measure, which brought out everyone from Cardinal Blase Cupich to Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to advocate for it in Springfield, would have required gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and not just the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.
The cost would have been limited to $1,000 every five years. The measure would have also required dealers and employees to be trained to conduct background checks, stop thefts, store guns and prevent straw purchasing — which is at the heart of why Chicago’s top officials kept hammering the Republican governor to sign it.
Rauner’s veto came after Democratic pressure from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Democratic J.B. Pritzker and other gubernatorial rivals just days before the primary election in March.
After the veto, Rauner told the Sun-Times he decided to veto it because “it was going to create a big layer of burden and bureaucracy, and really not keep our communities safer.”
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His opponents accused him of making a political decision — trying to gain support as he faced a conservative challenger in state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. “Not at all,” the governor said of that accusation.
On Wednesday, Rauner in a statement said he wants to focus on gun issues such as illegal trafficking, school safety and keeping guns from the mentally ill — a common theme of his response to gun violence.
“All any father or mother really wants to know is that their family is safe. We need to focus on illegal gun trafficking, school safety, how to best keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” he said. “These are bipartisan issues that we are working on collaboratively in our Public Safety Working Group to drive real solutions. We will keep working to keep our families safe.”
But Pritzker vouched his personal support for the measure and said he’d sign it should he win in November.
“Senseless gun violence is devastating our communities each and every day, but instead of taking immediate action to protect our children and our families, Bruce Rauner has chosen to stand with special interests. The Gun Dealer Licensing Act is a commonsense, bipartisan bill and Bruce Rauner’s reckless veto will leave Illinois’ families without critical gun safety legislation to keep them safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “As governor, I will side with the children, parents, teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement officials across Illinois who support keeping our communities safe. I will sign this bill.”