The following is a response to a recent letter from the Deputy Director of the Illinois Justice Project in support of gun dealer licensing that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. So far, the Sun-Times has declined to print this.
By Dan P. Eldridge and Todd Vandermyde
Sharone Mitchell’s letter to the Sun-Times in support of gun dealer licensing (SB337) betrays a complete ignorance of current law. Straw purchases and sales (using a “straw” qualified buyer to procure a firearm for a legally disqualified purchaser) are Illegal under Illinois and federal law. SB-337 does nothing to address this issue. Nor does it address the underlying problem of limp prosecutions by the Cook County State’s Attorney. Or their refusal to refer cases to federal prosecutors.
Buying a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to possess one is already illegal.
This is due to the fact that straw purchases are currently illegal under federal law, and have been since 1968. Straw purchases are punishable by up to ten years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. It was firearms industry participants who helped to craft Illinois’ straw purchase law (720 ILCS 5/24-3.5).
Penalties under current state law start with five years imprisonment, and ramp up to 40 years for serial gun traffickers. Therefore the existing law provides for prosecution at the state and federal level with stiff penalties for straw buyers and straw sellers alike. No new law is needed. The only “new” thing needed is the will and fortitude by Cook County’s State’s Attorney to use the existing laws on the books. And to stop the catch and release program for those violating Illinois and federal firearms law.
Firearms trafficking is also already illegal.
Even without the current law on straw purchasing, Illinois also has laws on gun running (three or more illegal transfers), waiting periods, and FOID card requirements to own or possess firearms or ammunition. All of this appears to be ignored by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Yet the supporters of gun control want to overlook this inconvenient fact and continue to push the false narrative that gun shops are somehow responsible for crime in Chicago.
Not a single firearm leaves an Illinois gun shop without someone first being approved by state and federal background checks, or possessing a federal license. Federally licensed firearms stores in Illinois may be the only retail business where in order for their customers to even handle, much less purchase, their products, they must have already passed a background check by the State Police and FBI.
Customers are required to have a special state issued ID (FOID Card) to possess the product when they leave the store, and must wait 72 hours and face another background check before taking their purchase home with them.
Useless and redundant regulation is not what is needed.
The current law allows for state and local law enforcement to attempt straw purchases at dealers in “sting” operations. This is an effective and established method to prove compliance or non-compliance with the existing law. A vast, burdensome, and expensive regulatory scheme as envisioned by SB337 does nothing to prevent crime. It is useless and redundant regulation at the expense of small businesses.
Mr. Mitchell concludes:
Deterring straw purchases in Illinois won’t end the violence in our neighborhoods, but it is one necessary step to reducing the bloodshed.
We couldn’t agree more. And what better way to deter crime than to prosecute criminals under the existing law?