Rauner Vetoes Gun Dealer Licensing Bill

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill Tuesday to license gun dealers in Illinois, despite pressure from Democrats, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to sign the legislation. 

Rauner, a first-term Republican, said in a statement that he vetoed Senate Bill 1657 because it "created onerous, duplicative bureaucracy that does little to improve public safety."

Known as the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, the bill passed the legislature in late February and would have required criminal background checks for all gun shop employees, as well as training to help them identify a buyer who may be purchasing a gun for someone else.

The bill also proposed requiring basic store security measures to help prevent theft and requiring that anyone who sells, leases or transfers firearms in any way be licensed by the state.

Proponents of the bill said it would have helped deter straw purchasing and stem the flow of illegal firearms into Chicago and across the state, while those who do not support the measure - including Rauner - said it is unnecessary as the federal government already licenses gun dealers. 

"The core issue is not which guns to legally ban or regulate," Rauner said in a statement, adding, "We have ample proof that such narrowly focused legislative responses make for good political cover, but they do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing thousands of crimes in our state each year with illegal guns."

There was an immediate and emotional reaction to the governor’s veto. NBC 5’s Charlie Wojciechowski has the details.

In his veto message, Rauner called on leaders in the Illinois House and Senate to appoint four members of their respective caucuses to a newly-formed "Legislative Public Safety Group." 

Rauner said the group would work with his administration to develop proposals on topics including school safety, mental health, crime prevention, economic revitalization and more. 

"We have to work together to develop public safety solutions that truly make a difference," Rauner said.

Rauner first publicly revealed his plan to veto the bill in an interview with downstate radio station WJPF Tuesday morning, having previously evaded questions while maintaining that he had been "crystal clear" in his stance. 

"We've been doing a lot of homework, doing a lot of research on this and I have decided I am vetoing that bill," Rauner, who told WJPF he is a gun owner and longtime member of the National Rifle Association, said. 

"It's just not right," he continued, adding, "It's unnecessary, burdensome regulation. It's redundant on top of existing federal regulation. It's crushing to our small business owners and creates bureaucracy that really doesn't help keep our community safer."

Rauner's veto came just one day after several leaders in the city of Chicago - including Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, state legislators and advocates - issued a public call for him to support the measure. 

Emanuel initially sent a letter signed by all 50 Chicago aldermen to Rauner on March 2, asking him to sign the bill. He later suggested that Rauner - facing a tough reelection battle - may not want to act on the legislation until after the upcoming primary on March 20.

In a blistering statement Tuesday, Emanuel again referenced the election, claiming that with one week left, Rauner "just put his primary election ahead of his primary responsibility to protect the safety of the people of Chicago and Illinois."

"The governor's decision was cruel, it was cold and it was calculated to benefit his own politics at the expense of public safety," Emanuel said.

"This veto is a slap in the face to crime victims, faith leaders and police who have pleaded with Governor Rauner to protect public safety by signing the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. This failure will be his legacy," his statement ended. 

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