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Rauner Com-Pac

Governor Bruce Rauner is flanked by Republican Senators Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo (right) and Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, during a tour of the Com-Pac manufacturing facility in Carbondale.

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois gun shop owners and downstate legislators on Tuesday applauded Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of legislation that would have required gun retailers to be licensed by the state of Illinois.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled legislature about two weeks ago, soon after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Some owners felt the bill was unfair to small businesses, as “big-box” stores wouldn’t have needed to be licensed. The measure exempted retailers if firearms made up less than 20 percent of overall sales.

The bill would have required gun dealers to pay $1,000 every five years for a license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Mike Chamness, owner of Mike’s Guns in Marion, said the licensing fee would have put stress on his business.

“We already have to have licensing, we go through all sorts of background checks and training, and it was just a piece of feel-good legislation that would make it more expensive for us to do business,” Chamness said.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, claimed the bill would prevent straw purchasers from buying guns legally and selling them to criminals. The measure would have required retailers to train employees to spot such purchasers.

Chamness noted that a firearms licensee has to answer whether he is the actual buyer of firearms in the first question on Form 4473, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form for sale of firearms.

“If somebody’s going to perjure themselves by answering that question, or they’re going to perjure themselves with me having a federal license and a state license both, that has nothing to do with the dealer,” Chamness said.

Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said he was glad Rauner vetoed the bill.

“This bill was an expansive government overreach at a time when we should be scaling government back,” Schimpf said. “This bill would hurt our Southern Illinois firearms dealers while exempting the big box stores from its onerous regulations.”

In a statement, Sen. Dave Fowler, R-Harrisburg, also applauded the veto.

“Senate Bill 1657 was an overreaching, redundant measure that would place a costly licensing burden on our local and small firearms dealers. Our conversations should be about advancing public safety and protecting our citizens' Second Amendment rights, not placing yet another unnecessary regulation on members of our business community that potentially will drive small gun shop owners into the ground,” he said. “As our firearm dealers already meet the licensing requirements at the federal level and are required to adhere to the regulations currently in place at the state level, this bill is an empty, excessive gesture that would have serious consequences if signed into law. I did not support this bill when it came before the Senate and I am encouraged that this bill did not receive the Governor’s signature today.”

janis.esch@thesouthern.com

618-351-5082

On Twitter: @janis_eschSI

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Reporter

Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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