Gun dealers feel impact of new state licensing law

Accuracy Firearms employee Cody Hartke processes a federal application all firearms purchasers must fill out to buy a gun. Kaitlin Cordes photo.

The co-owner of Accuracy Firearms in Effingham said the new Illinois law that takes effect Wednesday requiring gun dealers to get state licenses has already cost his business money.

"I had to buy two different signs that the state specified how big the letters had to be on the sign," said Levi Slater.

Those two signs let customers know they are being recorded on surveillance and provide information about gun transfers. Slater said when someone comes into his store, visible cameras already let them know they are being recorded.

The mandated signage is in addition to a required recording time of 90 days by gun dealer store cameras, something Slater said will require him to spend an amount to be determined to upgrade the store's surveillance system.

A group of firearms dealers along with the Illinois State Rifle Association filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn the new law, alleging that it violates both the Illinois Constitution and the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.

“There is no need for this law,” Richard Pearson, head of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said in a news release. “The federal government already licenses gun dealers. All this does is create more red tape and increase the cost of doing business. We said we would challenge this law in court when it was signed, and today we are keeping that promise.”

Another requirement that takes effect in January will force Slater to purchase two additional cabinets to comply with the law's regulation for keeping ammunition at least five feet away from firearms.

"As with anything on a capitalist market, it's going to affect our pocketbooks," Slater said. "We're trying to absorb it. We have not raised our prices because of the gun licensing bill, but there's a myriad of things that they've done that have kind of affected our industry."

Slater said the biggest impact of the law will be on the customers. He said because so many gun dealers have chosen not to get a state license – essentially ceasing business – that limits the places customers can purchase guns and exercise their Second Amendment rights. The Center Square news service reports that more than half of the state's 2,351 federally licensed gun dealers haven’t yet applied for state licenses required by the new Illinois' Firearm Dealer License Certification Act.

To obtain the license, Slater had to pay $1,500 and will have to resubmit an application and another $1,500 every two years. Slater described the bill as a way for the state government to "drum up revenue." He also thinks it a way for the Democrats who control the legislature and the governor's office to control guns.

"It has done exactly what Chicago Democrats wanted it to do. They know it's hard to remove guns because the Constitution allows us to have them ... but if they can limit the amount of places you can go to get a gun, it's going to make it harder," Slater said. "It got rid of gun dealers, and unfortunately, it's another infringement on people's constitutional rights. There's nothing in that bill that's going to keep anyone safer."

Jason Schumacher, store manager at the Effingham Rural King, said the store has already applied for the state license.

Schumacher said while he is unsure of what changes the state license will make to the gun dealer portion of the store, he will soon find out through training.

"I know I've got some training I'll have to go to to give me an in depth idea of what it all entails," Schumacher said.

Schumacher said that training is not required by the state, but Rural King mandates the training to ensure all store managers know the full details of the state licensing law. Schumacher said the licensing fee is not much of an added burden on the store, and the fee is no different than other state and federal fees and licenses required for gun dealers.

The lawsuit was filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court on Tuesday, July 16, the day before the new requirement for holding a state license took effect. It names Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly as defendants.

The gun dealers, described as small businesses who are all members of the rifle association, argue that the new law violates the state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and due process under the law because it imposes “prohibitive” costs on them. Those include the cost of the licenses themselves, as well as the cost of installing security systems and the potential $10,000 fine for each violation.

They also argue that it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms because it imposes “undue burdens” on firearms retailers.

And finally, they argue that it violates the Administrative Procedures Act because, as of the date the lawsuit was filed, no administrative rules or regulations have been adopted to implement provisions like the safe storage requirements or training requirements.

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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