Crusader Staff Report
With just a week to go before the primary election, Gov. Bruce Rauner drew a firestorm of criticism after he vetoed a bill on March 13 that would have required the state to license and regulate gun shops as mass shootings continue to spark heated debates on gun control between lawmakers.
The move intensified a protest from thousands of students across Chicago who walked out of school the next day as part of National Walkout Day, which called attention to the mass shooting that killed 17 students on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Many students carried signs and shouted, “Enough!” while others walked out of classes silently in a more somber protest.
Florida’s Gov. Rick Scottsigned SB 7026 into law—the first gun control legislation enacted in the state after the Parkland school massacre—on March 9. The law, known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, tightens gun control in several ways, but also allows some teachers to be armed. One provision of the law raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as governor is try to find the words to console a parent who has lost their child,” Scott said. “There are just no words.”
In Illinois, SB 1657 would have required criminal background checks for all gun shop employees. It would also require training to help gun shop employees identify a buyer purchasing a gun for someone else. The bill also called for training for dealers and their employees to make sure they know how to properly conduct background checks, store guns and stop thefts.
“The core issue is not which guns to legally ban or regulate,” Rauner said in his veto message to lawmakers. “We have ample proof that such narrowly focused legislative responses make for good political cover. But they do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing thousands of crimes in our state each year with illegal guns.”
Rauner called the bill “duplicative” because the federal government already licenses firearms retailers. He said another layer of oversight would be costly for businesses and “do little to improve public safety.”
Rauner vetoed the bill despite calls from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and a chorus of city leaders who wanted Rauner to take immediate action on the bill instead of waiting until after the primary election on March 20. The gun dealer licensing bill has been sitting on Rauner’s desk since March 1.
At a press conference Monday at CPD headquarters, leaders urged Rauner to sign the legislation.“Florida passed gun legislation, South Carolina passed a ban on bump stocks, here in Illinois, silence from the governor’s office,” Emanuel said. “Here in Illinois, we license cigar shops. We license liquor shops. We license barbershops. We now have a chance if the governor will sign the bill to license gun shops. All eyes are on the governor” Emanuel said.
There are no gun shops in Chicago, but city leaders say many guns used in Chicago crimes are traced back to suburban dealers.
Leaders throughout Illinois released statements after Rauner vetoed the bill.
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), who co-sponsored the gun bill, said, “In every corner of our country, the voices of young people who have seen the lives of their friends and loved ones cut short are raised in unison to call on us to act. By choosing to veto this legislation, the governor has chosen to ignore the clear voice of the people in favor of a gun lobby whose aims no longer represent the views of even the vast majority of gun owners. To do this is to turn his back on the families who, united in pain, have pushed for change and found support in the legislature.”
State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th), said, “We license all sorts of professions: physicians, lawyers, pharmacists, even dog groomers and barbers. It’s not an unreasonable request to license firearm dealers. The vast majority of voters support this measure on a bipartisan basis, and the governor turned his back on all of them today.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy said, “This disgusting veto represents everything that is wrong with Springfield where political preservation comes before the citizens our elected leaders are supposed to serve. Governor Rauner made this decision to win a primary, but the consequences of it will cost him in November.”
In a statement, Emanuel said, “With one week left in his campaign, Governor Rauner just put his primary election ahead of his primary responsibility to protect the safety of the people of Chicago and Illinois. The governor’s decision was cruel, it was cold and it was calculated to benefit his own politics at the expense of public safety. This veto is a slap in the face to crime victims, faith leaders and police who have pleaded with Governor Rauner to protect public safety by signing the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. This failure will be his legacy.”