Response to illegal trafficking of firearms in Illinois

By Letter to the Editor, by Senator Don Harmon

Thank you for your May 9 editorial, “Illegal gun trading is not a right,” that brought attention to a new effort in the Illinois Legislature to address illegal trafficking of firearms in the state.

As the editorial notes, legislation I’m sponsoring in the state Senate would not affect gun dealers who operate in an above-board fashion, which – to their credit – comprise the majority of dealers in this state. Most of these dealers are reputable, responsible and encourage employees to be vigilant in trying to prevent illegal sales.

Unfortunately, Illinois also is home to some unscrupulous dealers who are happy to look the other way as they put guns in the hands of people who should not have them. The legislation I’m sponsoring would make things considerably more difficult for the dealers who knowingly try to skirt the law.

The legislation calls for three sensible updates to state law:

  • Require criminal background checks for gun dealer employees, who have access to large inventories of guns.
  • Require training and education for gun dealer employees so the background check system can work better. Employees should know how to conduct background checks, identify and stop straw purchases of firearms, and properly store guns to prevent thefts.
  • Demand additional accountability from gun dealers by enabling state and law enforcement officials to inspect inventories of licensed gun dealers for missing firearms.

These proposed changes should not affect dealers who already adhere to state and federal guidelines. They’re designed to target the dealers who knowingly contribute to the gun violence that plagues Chicago and communities elsewhere in Illinois.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, more than 108,000 Americans are killed or wounded in gun violence each year. A factor in this staggering statistic is the no-questions-asked sale of millions of guns across the country.

I believe it’s time we start asking more questions. I welcome your support for this initiative and others that seek to protect innocent Illinoisans by curbing gun violence in this state.

Senator Don Harmon

Oak Park