SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today applauded the Illinois House of Representatives for approving critical legislation that closes a deadly loophole in the law that allows criminals access to guns without undergoing background checks. House Bill 794, sponsored by Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), requires gun sellers to request background checks for potential gun purchasers when obtaining firearms at gun shows.
“Right now, individuals can attend gun shows and buy weapons, regardless of their criminal history. This is a matter of public safety, and today the Illinois House took an important step toward closing this deadly gap in the law. I strongly encourage the Illinois Senate to follow the House’s lead,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
House Bill 794, passing by a house vote of 63 to 51, requires the Illinois State Police (ISP) to create a system in which background checks can be done at gun shows. HB 794 requires gun sellers, who are not federally licensed firearms dealers, to request background checks from ISP before they can sell guns. If ISP determines, after a background check is conducted, that the buyer is qualified to own a gun, the state police will issue an approval number that is valid for 30 days, during which time the sale must take place.
In recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice and Treasury reported that between 2,000 and 5,000 gun shows take place annually - Illinois being among the top ten states for the most gun shows. A June 2000 federal study found that almost 26,000 guns recovered after crimes came from gun shows or flea markets. The same report found in gun show investigations, felons are associated with selling or buying guns almost half the time.
Guns purchased at gun shows have been used in some of this country’s most notorious and deadly crimes - including the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado. The two 17-year-old boys who shot 26 students, killing 13 of them before turning the guns on themselves, obtained two shotguns, an assault rifle, and a TEC-9 assault pistol from a friend who purchased them at gun shows from private sellers. The woman later stated that had she been required to undergo a background check at the gun show, she never would have purchased the guns for the boys.
HB 794 now moves to the senate for consideration.
Also today, House Bill 341 fell short of the necessary three-fifths majority vote needed for passage. This bill would have closed gun show loophole – at the expense of vital information. HB 341 would have required gun purchase information to be destroyed. Background check information is an invaluable law enforcement tool in stopping the flow of guns to criminals. Without receiving the necessary votes, HB 341 was placed on postponed consideration.
Gov. Blagojevich applauded the actions of the Illinois House today and pledged to continue his vigorous fight to protect citizens from gun violence. The Governor is working aggressively to line up support for an Illinois assault weapons ban, House Bill 2414 sponsored by Rep. Edward J. Acevedo (D-Chicago). HB 2414 bans the manufacture, possession, and delivery of semiautomatic assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, large capacity ammunition feeding devices and the .50 caliber assault rifle. The .50-caliber rifle is among the most destructive weapon available to the public. It’s capable of hitting a target accurately from up to 2,000 yards, killing someone from a mile away, or even bringing down an airplane. The ammunition .50-calibers use is able to blow through a half-inch thick piece of steel – and thus easily pierce armor that police officers wear.
“We believe in the next few weeks, we’ll have the support we need to get these powerful and destructive weapons off the street. Congress did the public a disservice by allowing the federal Assault Weapons Ban to expire and passing this legislation in Illinois is a way to right this terrible wrong. This legislation, as well as legislation to close the gun show loophole, will make Illinois a safer state to live in,” said the Governor.