Can Small Gun Shops Survive Illinois' New Gun Control Law?

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

A new gun control law aimed squarely at gun shops in the state of Illinois takes effect today. The Firearms Dealer License Certification Act requires all gun stores across the state to be licensed by the Illinois State Police as well as the federal government, and in order to get that state license firearm retailers have to navigate a maze of red tape and comply with onerous new restrictions. In some cases, gun shops are shutting down rather than try to meet the new requirements, and other stores are ditching gun and ammo sales completely.


Supporters have said the law will ensure gun dealers aren’t enabling illegal straw buyers. Phil Davis, whose employer modified its business to stop selling guns because of the law, said all that the law will do is hurt the industry.

“One thing Illinois should learn from the 1920s and prohibition is, when you make something impossible to get legally, it becomes very profitable to get illegally,” said Davis, who has worked at a gun store in Springfield for nearly 20 years.

“I walked in this morning and I looked at where the [gun] racks used to be and realized — after 20 years working at a place, $15 an hour, 40 hours a week — I no longer work at a gun shop because we’re following all of the rules, but they literally priced us out of the market,” Davis said.

The deaths of these small independent gun shops, many of them in more rural parts of the state, won’t be mourned by those gun control advocates who claim to be supporters of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, expect the new regulations imposed by the state police to grow larger and more burdensome as time goes on, ensnaring more shops in a bureaucratic web of confusing, contradictory, and in some cases impossible mandates.


Already shops can face fines of thousands of dollars for having ammunition within five feet of a firearm, or for having the wrong sized signs, according to Bill Oglesby of Oglesby and Oglesby Gunmakers. I suspect Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker will be pushing the Illinois State Police to be as aggressive as possible with enforcing the new mandates, which will likely lead to the closure of more shops for non-compliance with nonsensical demands.

Not every federally licensed firearms retailer in the state has applied for the new license.  According to the Illinois State Police, they’ve received a little more than 1,100 applications, but the BATFE has licensed about 2,300 dealers in the state.  While that number is cause for alarm among gun owners and FFL’s, the sponsor of the legislation creating the state firearms dealer license isn’t bothered at all. Quite the contrary.

“I’m thrilled 1,100 gun dealers have applied,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Brook, who sponsored the measure. “I think it’s a real success.”

Harmon said it’s too early to comment about reports that gun dealers have closed or decided to stop selling firearms.

When does Sen. Harmon think the time will be right to comment on those gun dealers that have shut down operations, or retailers that have dropped their firearms and ammunition sales completely?  When every last independent retailer locks their doors for the final time?  When every country store that’s been selling ammo along with bait, fishing tackle, and hunting licenses decides it’s not worth the expense to keep stocking shotgun shells and .22LR?  The law is in effect now, so it seems to me it’s the perfect time to talk about the impact the law has had on the law-abiding.


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