On August 23, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law regarding the illegal trafficking of guns. Gun violence facilitated by illegally possessed and acquired firearms has long been a problem plaguing the state, especially in the city of Chicago.
Chicago has a persistent violent crime problem, one which this bill is meant to make a dent in, but is by no means enough to solve entirely.
It’s been easy for black market gun traffickers to acquire the weapons they sell in Illinois despite the state’s own stance on it by taking advantage of the more lenient laws and policies of Illinois’ neighboring states.
“425 people have been murdered by firearms in Chicago this year and another 2320 have been shot and wounded,” said Jim Durkin, a House Republican Leader. “Each weekend in Chicago is bloodier than the last.”
The bill is meant to make penalties on illegal gun trafficking strict enough to act as an effective deterrent, which legislators have complained it was not before the introduction of the bill. Rauner himself, however denied having heard about this problem from legislators when asked about it.
The law was unopposed in both chambers of the General Assembly. The signing ceremony was attended by a representative of the Illinois State police, as well as Republican legislative leaders.
“The laws of Illinois for many years have been more focused toward holding the shooter accountable but not the person who armed the shooter, and that changes today with the governor’s signature,” said Durkin. He said that the law makes gun trafficking punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison. Up until the signing in Illinois the offense could carry a year sentence, and was categorized as a much less important type of felony. Durkin elaborated, “This law targets straw purchasers – those who skirt Illinois firearm laws by buying guns in other states with the intent to resell in the illegal black markets of Illinois, later adding, “I thank the Illinois General Assembly for their bipartisan unanimous support.”
The powerful political force of the gun-rights lobby did not oppose the bill, which is likely the only reason it was allowed to pass. The lobby probably did not see the bill as a threat to its goals and manifesto, since it’s not like such a well-funded group has any need to save money.
Said Durkin: “I think the federal government needs to do something; I hope they do something.” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno spoke to say that “[the] issue of background checks at gun shows needs to be handled federally, in my opinion.”
A DIVIDED MOVEMENT
Rauner declined to speak on the larger issue of federal policy on gun control, saying that he was “one-hundred percent focused on Illinois”. The power that states have to manage guns on their own terms is far from all-encompassing, but is relevant, as exemplified by outlier states like Texas with very atypical gun laws.
Illinois, specifically, is an area with significantly different demographics in different areas, being mostly rural but containing one of the United States’ most notable cities and its surrounding area. This makes it more difficult to move issues considered political, like anything involving firearms, forward, as the population of the state tends to be internally divided in its opinions on them.
The bill’s status and synopsis can be viewed here.