Background checks now required
at Illinois gun shows      
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[JULY 30, 2005]  CHICAGO -- Taking an aggressive stand against gun violence, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, joined by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, signed legislation Friday that closes the gun show loophole that allowed gun buyers to avoid comprehensive background checks. Senate Bill 1333, sponsored by Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, requires gun sellers at firearm shows to request background checks for potential gun purchasers. The new law takes effect immediately.

"Today we celebrate the triumph of common sense and a better chance at safe neighborhoods -- neighborhoods free from violence, neighborhoods free from fear," Blagojevich said.

"Before we signed this bill, individuals could attend gun shows and buy weapons, regardless of their criminal history, putting our families and our neighborhoods at risk. This law will help keep dangerous weapons out of criminal hands, making our communities safer and more secure. People who want to purchase firearms at gun shows in Illinois will now go through the same important background checks as people who buy from licensed retail dealers."

Senate Bill 1333 requires gun sellers, who are not federally licensed firearms dealers, to request background checks from the Illinois State Police before they can sell guns at gun shows. If it is determined after a background check that the buyer is qualified to own a gun, the state police will issue an approval number that is valid for 30 days, during which time the sale must take place. Additionally, the seller must retain records of sales for at least 10 years and make those records available to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigations.

"I want to thank Governor Blagojevich for signing this bill today, and I commend all the individuals and organizations who worked so hard for its enactment," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "Chicago's crime rate has been dropping for 14 years, and this legislation will make the city and communities across the state even safer by making it more difficult for criminals to obtain guns."

"Public safety is not a partisan issue, and we were able to advance this historic gun control measure with bipartisan support," said Osterman, House sponsor of the legislation. "We sent a clear message that we want these guns off the market for gangbangers and gun traffickers. Many elected officials, members of law enforcement and gun control advocates worked on the passage of this legislation for many years, and I thank them for their efforts. I appreciate the governor's leadership and thank him for his support."

"The purpose of gun laws is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals," said Cullerton, Senate sponsor of the legislation. "It doesn't matter where they make the purchase. The technology is there to close this loophole that allows the sale of guns to people who should not have guns, and we should use it."

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives reported that between 2,000 and 5,000 gun shows take place annually, with Illinois being among the top 10 states in numbers of gun shows. A June 2000 federal study found that almost 26,000 guns recovered after crimes came from gun shows or flea markets. The federal reports also found that in gun show investigations felons are associated with selling or buying guns almost half the time.

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Guns purchased at gun shows have been used in some of this country's most notorious and deadly crimes, including the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado. The two 17-year-old boys who shot 26 students, killing 13 of them before turning the guns on themselves, obtained two shotguns and an assault rifle from a friend who purchased them at gun shows from private sellers. The woman later stated that had she been required to undergo a background check at the gun show, she never would have purchased the guns for the boys.

"Governor Blagojevich is to be greatly praised for championing and signing a bill which will help protect our communities from shootings and killings," said Gary Slutkin, M.D., executive director of CeaseFire Illinois. "Governor Blagojevich has developed a successful multifaceted campaign to help our neighborhoods become safer and more livable -- and residents all over the state are very grateful to him for these efforts. This is a critically important step forward in helping to save more lives."

The signing of Senate Bill 1333 builds on the governor's continuing effort to stop gun violence in Illinois:

  • In June, the governor signed House Bill 524, House Bill 132 and House Bill 35, which imposed harsher prison sentences for individuals convicted of a crime using a firearm. The bills included mandatory prison time for second or subsequent offenses.

  • The governor also signed House Bill 348, which requires that if anyone attempts to get a Firearm Owner's Identification Card but is denied, state police must report the person's name and address to the local law enforcement agency where the person lives.

  • The governor announced $3.9 million for Operation CeaseFire programs in Illinois in the coming fiscal year, including seven $250,000 grants for communities that will receive funding for the first time. Last year, Gov. Blagojevich increased funding for CeaseFire to expand from five Chicago communities to 15 communities around the state.

  • In March, the governor created an elite gun trafficking police unit to stop the flow of crime guns into Illinois. The gun unit works with federal authorities and law enforcement agencies from Indiana and Mississippi to detect and capture gunrunners and illegal dealers. More crime guns flow into Illinois from Indiana and Mississippi than from any other state.

  • The governor has pushed strongly for the state assault weapons ban currently being considered by the legislature. The legislation would ban assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles in Illinois, which are extremely dangerous weapons. The ban would outlaw weapons such as UZIs, AK47s and TEC-DC9s.

[News release from the governor's office]

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