Illinois Gets Smart About Gun Shops

(Bloomberg View) -- The state of Illinois regulates many common trades that maybe it shouldn’t, such as those specified by the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985. And it doesn’t regulate one industry that needs to be: gun dealerships.

Despite a gruesome spike in gun violence in Chicago in recent years, regulation of gun retailers is left to the perennially (and intentionally) understaffed federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A proposal passed last month by the Illinois Senate would change that.

The bill would force greater accountability among gun dealers in the state -- especially those who supply a disproportionate share of guns used in crimes. The legislation would require gun shops to install video surveillance and would require shop employees to undergo background checks and training.

Between 2001 and 2012, the Chicago Police Department traced about 50,000 recovered guns. More than half came from out of state, primarily from states with lax gun laws such as Indiana and Mississippi. But many came from in-state. From 2008 through 2012, more than 1,300 guns associated with crimes or illicit uses in Chicago came from a single gun shop in Riverdale, Illinois.

Rogue gun dealers are a national problem that the ATF lacks the will or resources to properly regulate. The agency inspects just a tiny fraction of the nation’s 140,000 federally licensed firearm dealers each year. Inadequate security at shops is another threat. Gun store burglaries hit an all-time high in 2016.   

Guns pour through these gaping holes, and end up in the hands of criminals. Until and unless the federal government makes a serious effort to enforce federal law, states must take the necessary steps to bring order and accountability to the gun shops within their borders.

--Editors: Francis Wilkinson, Michael Newman

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