SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced he will sign legislation that closes the gun show loophole, and veto legislation that would require the Illinois State Police to destroy records of firearm purchases – a valuable tool in fighting crime. The Governor applauded the Illinois House of Representatives for approving, by a vote of 89 to 28, critical legislation that closes a deadly loophole in the law that allows criminals access to guns without undergoing background checks. Senate Bill 1333, sponsored by Sen. Jon Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), requires gun sellers to request background checks for potential gun purchasers when obtaining firearms at gun shows. This bill thwarts efforts of the National Rifle Association, which pushed a competing bill that closes the gun show loophole, but also required the destruction the Illinois State Police’s vital firearm purchases. The Governor plans to veto that entire legislation, Senate Bill 57.
“Today, the Illinois General Assembly took a strong stand against gun violence. Right now, individuals can attend gun shows and buy weapons, regardless of their criminal history. This is a matter of public safety, and that’s why I lobbied strongly for this bill. I applaud legislators for voting for casting their votes to make our communities safer. I look forward to signing it into law,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
SB 1333 requires gun sellers, who are not federally licensed firearms dealers, to request background checks from the Illinois State Police (ISP) before they can sell guns at gun shows. 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. Additionally, the seller must retain records of sales for at least ten years and make those records available to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigations.
“Today was an historic vote for the House of Representatives to close the gun show loophole in Illinois in a bipartisan way. We sent a clear message that we want these guns off the market for gang bangers and gun traffickers. We look forward to the Governor signing the bill and I thank him for his support,” said Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago).
“A gun is a gun, regardless of where it is sold,” said Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago). “The technology is there and we should use it to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of people who are not allowed to legally buy them. We are not preventing anyone with the legal right to own a gun to buy one at a gun show.”
Because SB 1333 passed in both chambers, the Governor will veto SB 57 in its entirety. Last week, the General Assembly approved the NRA bill that closed the gun show loophole but also required the destruction of firearm purchase records considered critical by law enforcement in criminal investigations.
“The State Police’s database of firearm purchases helps law enforcement to know if a suspect they will be raiding owns a large stockpile of weapons, and enables them to track down the original purchaser of guns used in crimes. The NRA tried to force our hand to eliminate the database by attaching it to legislation that closes the problematic gun show loophole – but they failed. I will veto Senate Bill 57. And by signing Senate Bill 1333, our police will be able to continue using the firearm purchase database to protect their officers and track down illegal gun dealers; and people who want to purchase firearms at gun shows in Illinois will go through the same important background checks as people who buy from licensed retail dealers,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
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.