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Stop Congress from trashing Illinois’ concealed gun protections

Monday, April 17, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times
by Editorial Board

The people who think the Second Amendment phrase “well-regulated” means “not regulated at all” are back.

This time, they’re pushing a dangerous idea called “concealed carry reciprocity” that would allow people who get concealed gun carry permits in states that have absolutely no restrictions to carry those hidden, loaded guns anywhere in the country.

That means a state such as Illinois could no longer draw a line and refuse to give concealed carry permits to people convicted of violent misdemeanors, substance abusers, repeat drunken drivers or who have severe mental health issues. Under the U.S. House version of a proposed law being considered in Congress, all those folks could simply get a permit from another state — one with much looser restrictions — sometimes just by mailing away for one. Twelve states require no permit at all.

Moreover, Illinois requires 16 hours of training and a valid Firearms Owner Identification Card before someone can get a concealed carry permit. The training ensures that those who carry hidden guns understand the laws. But why would anyone go through all of that if they could mail away for a permit instead? 

Steve Stephens, the man accused of recording himself shooting and killing a random man on Easter Sunday and putting the video on Facebook has an Ohio concealed carry license, which is less restrictive than the Illinois license, police said. Under concealed carry reciprocity, someone like Stephens — still on the run as of Monday afternoon — could legally carry and conceal his guns anywhere in the country, including Illinois, no matter what his background is like.

That’s a frightening thought.

Illinois prohibits concealed weapons from public transit, schools, bars, parks, hospitals and other locations, but gun-rights groups likely will challenge those bans in court if concealed carry reciprocity becomes a federal law. The House version of the bill would eliminate Illinois’ bans on private property, such as bars and day care centers.

The Violence Policy Center has documented 928 deaths since 2007 in incidents involving concealed carry permit holders in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Concealed carry laws ought to be tightened, not tossed out with the trash.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Legislature is considering a much more sensible idea: requiring gun dealers to be licensed by the state. A bill that might go to a vote next week in the Senate would give the state authority to step in when a gun dealer repeatedly sells firearms that show up at crime scenes.

Most gun dealers are responsible, but Illinois has the second highest concentration of gun dealers linked to high numbers of crime guns, according to the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. Under the gun licensing bill, the state could ensure gun dealers follow procedures designed to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Small dealers who sell just a few guns a year would be exempt.

Theoretically, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has the authority to step in when a gun dealer is repeatedly selling to criminals, but the agency is handcuffed by congressional restrictions that are likely only to get worse.

People in more than 100 professions, from hair braiders to canine handlers, have to get state licenses. There’s no reason gun dealers shouldn’t have to as well.

 



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