Proposal: State licensing for gun shops

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Gun stores would be licensed by the state under a bill being considered by the Illinois General Assembly.

Although gun dealers are already federally licensed and subject to inspection by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the measure’s sponsor said state licensing would add needed protection.

“The state license would allow our state and local officials to have some authority on making sure that our gun dealers are following best practices,” said State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-77. “The ATF just is short-staffed, short-funded, and they just do not have the manpower to adequately police the gun dealers.”

Supporters of the proposal say it is needed to keep guns from reaching the wrong hands, and they point to data from Chicago Police that 20 percent of guns used in crimes there came from four gun stores. Others point out that other types of businesses are already licensed by the state, including barbers and dog groomers.

Some who sell firearms argue another layer of licensing would be unnecessary and useless.

“In my opinion, all this is to try to make some gun legislation, make everyone feel better that the legislature’s finally doing something to try to get a stop on crime, and that’s not how you do it,” said Dan Cooley, president of the Bullet Trap in Macon. “You don’t go after law abiding citizens, you go after the root cause of the problem, which is criminals, and they don’t obey laws.”

The proposal includes the creation of a five-member board and the hiring of ten inspectors. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget estimates the proposal would cost $2.1 million per year.

In a phone interview Thursday, Representative Willis pointed to polling data that she said showed 77 percent of downstate Illinois residents favor state licensing.

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