Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new gun safety law that requires background checks for all gun purchases statewide as well as the reporting of all lost and stolen guns for the first time in Illinois history. This major legislation was a key priority in Governor Quinn's 2013 State of the State address and is part of the Governor's agenda to improve public safety across Illinois.
The Governor signed the new law at Nat King Cole Park, nearby where off-duty Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV lost his life in May of 2010. Officer Wortham, a veteran who had served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, was shot and killed with an illegally trafficked firearm in an apparent robbery attempt.
"Guns are a plague on too many of our communities," Governor Quinn said. "As I said in my State of the State address earlier this year, making sure guns do not fall into the wrong hands is critical to keeping the people of Illinois safe. This common-sense law will help our law enforcement crack down on crime and make our streets safer."
"I thank Representative Zalewski and Senator Raoul for their hard work to put this bill on my desk, and I commend Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for their leadership on the issue," the Governor added.
Sponsored by State Representative Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), House Bill 1189 closes the background check loophole for the sale or transfer of a firearm from a private party and requires all eligible firearm owners whose firearms are lost, misplaced or stolen to report the loss or theft to the local law enforcement agency within 72 hours after obtaining knowledge of the loss or theft.
"Gun trafficking is the single greatest threat to our public safety," Senator Raoul said. "I'm proud to have brought together lawmakers with very different perspectives on guns to pass a law that finally moves Illinois toward universal background checks and gives law enforcement a fighting chance against the flood of deadly weapons entering our neighborhoods illegally."
The legislation was strongly advocated by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who pushed the legislation in order to help police and prosecutors target the illegal flow of handguns that are stolen and end up in the hands of criminals on the street.
"Now more than ever we need all of the help that we can get to target those arming the criminals who are perpetuating this cycle of gun violence," Alvarez said. "This lost or stolen requirement will help police identify suspicious patterns of behavior by persons who fail to file reports yet continually claim their guns were lost or stolen after they are recovered at a crime scene."
Prior to this legislation, the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card Act only applied to licensed firearms dealers and sales at gun shows between private parties or by federally licensed firearms dealers. Before selling a firearm, a seller uses the telephone dial-up system operated by the Illinois State Police (ISP), which helps determine whether a person has a valid FOID card before making the sale.
Private sellers were not required to check whether or not the purchaser had a valid FOID card, a loophole which is now closed with this new law.
HB 1189 amends the FOID Card Act to require that a private party who sells or transfers a firearm use ISP's dial-up system to verify that the buyer or transferee holds a valid FOID card before making the sale or transfer. After receiving a request regarding the status of a FOID card, ISP must immediately complete an automated search of state and federal databases and inform the gun dealer of the status of the FOID card and whether the would-be buyer is disqualified from buying or possessing a firearm.
The law also requires ISP to develop an internet-based system for individuals to determine the validity of a FOID card prior to sale or transfer of a firearm.
According to the United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), individuals that steal firearms are more likely to commit violent crimes with stolen guns, transfer stolen firearms to others who commit crimes and create an unregulated secondary market for guns. Without the requirement of reporting lost and stolen guns, law enforcement is at a disadvantage in tracking down guns and the criminals who use them.
Illinois joins Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia in requiring the reporting of lost and stolen guns to law enforcement.
The reporting requirement for lost and stolen guns takes effect immediately; the new background check system will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.