Illinois governor signs law to toughen penalties for gun trafficking



(Fotolia via TNS)

Traffickers who take advantage of looser laws in neighboring states to illegally import guns to Illinois will face tougher penalties if caught under a measure Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Tuesday.

The new law, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly without opposition, makes it a felony for a person who has not been issued a state firearm owner’s identification card to bring guns into Illinois with the intent to sell or deliver them.

Penalties will be stricter for those who’ve previously been convicted on gun trafficking-related charges.


On hand to celebrate Rauner’s approval of the bill were Republican legislative leaders and representatives from the Illinois State Police. Notably, no Democratic lawmakers or Chicago Police Department officials attended the signing ceremony — an indication of the touchy political situation between Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The mayor has been pushing for legislation that would toughen penalties for illegal use of a weapon — an idea he raises regularly when discussing Chicago’s persistent violent crime problem.

But the idea has gone nowhere in the General Assembly, stalled in part by Illinois’ different geographic views on guns, and Rauner on Tuesday said the mayor hadn’t called him on it.

“I’ve not discussed that issue with the mayor myself,” Rauner said as he signed the bill at an Illinois State Police facility on the West Side. “Frankly, I’m talking with legislators all the time. They have not brought that issue up with me.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, a former assistant state’s attorney who sponsored the gun trafficking bill, said it was aimed at solving a problem faced by prosecutors, who complained that the penalties weren’t stiff enough to seriously punish and deter gun traffickers.

“The laws of Illinois for many years have been more focused toward holding the shooter accountable but not the person who armed the shooter,” Durkin said. “And that changes today with the governor’s signature.”

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The new law makes gun trafficking punishable by as much as 15 to 30 years in prison, Durkin said. Previously, the offense was categorized as a lower type of felony that carries a sentence of as little as year.

Illinois requires anyone who sells a gun either privately or commercially to perform a background check on the buyer. The state also requires that all gun holders obtain a FOID card to buy guns and ammunition.

But the laws in neighboring states are more relaxed, making it easier for black-market traffickers to get around the Illinois laws by importing guns from the more lenient states.

Gov. Bruce Rauner. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Gov. Bruce Rauner. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Politically, the bill was a winner because it wasn’t opposed by the powerful gun-rights lobby. But the two Republican legislative leaders said more should be done on the federal level to tighten restrictions on gun sales — an idea that has been fiercely opposed by gun-rights advocates and their largely Republican allies in Congress.

“I think the federal government needs to do something; I hope they do something,” Durkin said.

Specifically, “this issue of background checks at gun shows needs to be handled federally, in my opinion,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno. Rauner, however, was cagey.

“I’ll be very candid,” Rauner said. “I believe very strongly in this bill. I have not discussed federal policy and I really don’t want to get into federal policy. There are a lot of things there that, you know, I’m 100 percent focused on Illinois. This bill is very good policy for Illinois.”


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