Controversial state-level gun dealer licensing bill passes in Illinois Senate

A bill that would require Illinois gun dealers to be licensed at the state as well as the federal level was passed in the Illinois Senate last week.

WAND reported the measure — Senate Bill 1657 sponsored by Democrat Sen. Don Harmon — passed on a 30-21 vote and will now be considered in the Illinois House.

The proposal would essentially mandate state licensing for all Illinois firearms dealers, who are currently only required to be licensed at the federal level. The legislation carved out exemptions for big box stores and for small dealers who sell under 10 guns per year.

Controversy arose when it was reported that the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA) had received an exemption so long as the group did not oppose the bill.

Gun companies Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms, both associated with the IFMA, then came under fire and were accused of selling out the gun rights community. Both companies subsequently denied acting in concert with the IFMA and have since expressed strong opposition to the bill.

Dennis Reese, Chief Executive Officer for Springfield Armory, came out strongly against the measure in a May 1 statement from the company:

“At the time of my initial statement to the media, I was ill-informed of the ramifications of this bill and its detrimental effects to the Second Amendment, which I have personally fought to protect my entire life. I can tell you now, we at Springfield Armory are unequivocally 100 percent against this bill and will continue to work with the NRA and others to ensure that it is defeated,” said Dennis Reese, Chief Executive Officer, Springfield Armory.

Springfield Armory, like Rock River Arms, was not aware of the actions taken by our trade association, IFMA, until after the fact. We take this situation very seriously and are looking into how this very unfortunate lapse in communication occurred.

Springfield Armory has fought and defeated legislation like this in Illinois for the past 15 years. We are wholeheartedly against this bill and will fight to see it defeated as the unnecessary and harmful overreach that it is.

Chuck Larson, president of Rock River Arms, issued a similar statement the same day, distancing the company from the IFMA’s stance:

In 2009, we partnered with other manufacturers to form an organization geared towards representing our interests – The Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA). Historically, that organization has done well in representing us in Springfield, Illinois. We had no reason to believe that it was doing anything beyond representing the firearms community’s (Illinois firearms manufacturers, dealers and gun owners) best interests, keeping us well-informed on relevant legislation and issues, acting on our behalf. In the case of SB1657, there was a disconnect and that representation was misguided.

While we do believe that IFMA acted in what it felt was the best interests of its members, we were as shocked as everyone else to find ourselves exempted from provisions of SB1657 and that IFMA was no longer opposing that bill, even though RRA still opposed it.

Again, Rock River Arms wants to emphasize (regardless of anything that may have been said or done, mistakenly or otherwise, by any other party on our behalf) its continued total opposition to SB1657, the Illinois House version of the bill and any final legislation that may emerge. This includes any provisions found in Gun Dealer Licensing Act SB1657, along with any other threats that may infringe upon our gun rights.

It remains unclear what ramifications the opposition of Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms will have on the proposal. For now, the bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee.