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News and notes on guns in America

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Illinois Lawmakers Pass Revised Bill to Regulate Gun Stores, Setting Up a Veto Showdown

Illinois lawmakers have passed a measure to regulate gun stores in the state just two months after Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar bill. Now the legislation’s sponsors are hoping they can override their governor’s opposition and muscle the bill into law.

On Tuesday, the state House of Representatives approved the Firearm Dealer License Certification Act by a vote of 65 to 49. The Illinois Senate gave its final approval the following day. 

The bill would require gun dealers in Illinois to supply state police with copies of their federal licenses, and provide proof of security measures like closed-circuit surveillance video and alarm systems. The legislation would also impose penalties on individual gun owners who transfer guns in private sales, but don’t retain records of the deals.

In March, Rauner vetoed an earlier bill to regular gun stores, which Democratic legislators had pursued for years. In a statement announcing his veto, the governor argued that it would do little to improve public safety.

In its new iteration, the policy is just one vote short in the Senate of having veto-proof support. State Senator Don Harmon sponsored both the original bill and the revised legislation. He said he was confident that he will be able to get the one additional vote needed to override a second Rauner veto, should the governor again move to block the bill. 

The new proposals no longer creates a separate state licensing process, as the original legislation proposed to do. However, it would still give state and local law enforcement the authority to inspect gun stores. Businesses could lose their ability to operate in the state if they don’t have “adequate locks, exterior lighting, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, and other anti-theft measures.”

Harmon said he and his colleagues have revised the policy to make it less burdensome for businesses. “This is a much more streamlined effort to regulate gun dealers,” he said. “It does away with a clumsy and cumbersome licensure structure.”

Supporters of the proposal point to data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to make the case for its necessity. The ATF, which inspects gun stores nationally, managed to check in on only 8 percent of gun dealers last year. The ATF also lacks the authority to require gun stores to install minimum security and anti-theft measures.

The National Rifle Association opposes the bill, arguing the sponsors’ “intention is to close as many federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs) as possible.” Governor Rauner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harmon said he believed the updated bill would not arouse much opposition from gun businesses. The licensing requirements have been pared back compared to earlier proposals, and the security standards are in line with current industry practices. “Most gun dealers are doing much of this already,” Harmon said.

But not all: in the absence of any federal storage regulations for gun stores, criminals have become aware that certain dealers leave weapons unsecured after store hours, making the firearms tempting targets for theft. The ATF has reported sharp increases in the number of gun store burglaries in 2016 and 2017.