- Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017 05:35 PM
After more than a decade of building support for state-level gun dealer licensing, Senator Don Harmon advanced the measure out of the Illinois Senate on Thursday in a 30-21 vote.
“This was a difficult and a controversial bill, I know,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “I appreciate the support of every senator who was able to put children and families ahead of the NRA.”
Senate Bill 1657 would allow Illinois to license gun dealers and encourage better business practices while holding corrupt dealers accountable as authorities try to get a handle on the violence epidemic that continues to plague Chicago neighborhoods. Gun dealers also must be licensed by federal authorities.
Harmon said he did the best he could to eliminate opposition to the legislation, which is a good-faith effort to crack down on a handful of irresponsible gun dealers where a large number of the guns involved violent crimes in the Chicago area originate.
Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, commended Harmon and the Senate for passing the long-awaited measure.
“On behalf of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, we are thankful to Senator Harmon and members of the Senate for passing this very important bill,” she said. “Licensing and regulation of gun dealers will help stem the flow of illegal guns, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and ultimately save lives.
Harmon, whose district includes parts of the west side of Chicago where gun violence has reached epidemic proportions, became emotional after several senators raised objections to the legislation, in spite of daily news stories about deadly gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods. As of Wednesday, more than 1,000 people had been shot in Chicago.
“I’m not asking for much. I’m asking to give police the tools to go into the dealers and say, ‘Why did you sell 50 guns to one guy last month?’ Is that too much to ask?” Harmon said. “We’re not going to put people out of business. Believe me, there will always be guns for sale.
But can you help us in our neighborhoods, where 14-year-olds are shooting each other because guns are so easily available? This isn’t a perfect solution, but we have to do something.”
Senate Bill 1657 will move to the Illinois House for consideration.
Audio from Thursday's floor debate
Harmon: 'The NRA owns Washington'
Harmon: 'We have to do something'