Durbin Targets Gun Shops With New Legislation

AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar

Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin unveiled his latest gun control proposal on this week, and if approved the legislation could end up putting many smaller gun stores out of business. Durbin, along with Rep. Brad Schneider, an Illinois Democrat whose district covers some of the Chicago suburbs, say their SECURE (Safety Enhancements for Communities Using Reasonable and Effective) Firearms Storage Act is designed to make it harder for thieves to target gun stores, but one Illinois lobbyist says the gun store owners themselves would be the ones who’d feel the impact of the legislation.

When Illinois passed a controversial measure a few years ago making it illegal for retailers to sell guns without being certified by the state — even though they’ve already acquired a federal license — the law required shop owners to install surveillance equipment, maintain an electronic inventory, establish anti-theft measures and require employees to undergo annual training.

Todd Vandermyde, executive director of FFL Illinois, raised concern that the new federal proposal could prove very costly for smaller, local businesses that sell guns to be in compliance.

“I’m well aware that Sen. Durbin and Congressman Schneider would love nothing more than to eliminate the vast majority of FFLs in the state, as well as across the country,” said Vandermyde. “They just continually try to make it harder and harder to have the ability for the average person to go buy and obtain a firearm.”

As Vandermyde points out, the state of Illinois has already put similar laws in place. Those new requirements on gun stores haven’t curbed the violence in Chicago and other cities across the state, but they have caused several gun store owners to simply close their doors because they can’t afford to comply with the new mandates. As one Illinois newspaper reported in 2019 as the law was taking effect:

Some locally owned gun stores in east-central Illinois are closing their doors or moving to Indiana in response to new Illinois licensing requirements that owners say impose too great a burden on mom-and-pop operators.

“I’m planning on getting out after 45 years,” Randy Sutton, owner of Sutton’s Crazy Horse Guns & Archery in Paris, said Tuesday. “The whole concept is to put the small dealers out of business.”

Joyce Behnke, owner of Lost Creek Trading Post in Marshall, said, “It’s just not cost-effective for me [to continue to operate in Illinois].”

Behnke and her husband, Bill, have a limited use permit to sell guns from their home in Seelyville and plan to move their business to that Indiana town this summer.

… One of the first things small business operators such as Sutton and the Behnkes point to is the $1,500 cost of a three-year state license, which they maintain needlessly duplicates a $90 federal license, also valid for three years.

“This is just another layer of tighter controls that make it so doggone expensive, and it just doesn’t make any sense to pass than on to the customer,” said John Van Sandt, a salesperson at Lost Creeek. “It’s just not right.”

Sutton said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “already checks us down to the last dotted “I” and crossed “T’.”

Requirements of the new law also include 24-hour-a-day video surveillance of businesses, video recordings of all sales with off-site storage of recordings, background checks of employees and their families, and a mandate for trigger locks that are not be removed from guns until after the sale.

The trigger lock requirement means “people can’t really feel the gun, which is a big selling point,” said Van Sandt.

Now Dick Durbin wants to take this bad idea national. And while I’d love to think that this proposal isn’t going anywhere thanks to a 50-50 Senate, I’m a little concerned about something like this sneaking through. After all, this isn’t a gun control proposal in the sense that it directly targets legal gun owners. And FFLs are already regulated by the federal government, so Democrats will argue that there’s nothing wrong with imposing additional requirements, particularly if the goal is to prevent thefts from gun stores.

As we’ve seen in Illinois, however, it will be gun store owners who’d be really harmed by Durbin’s proposal. If the Illinois Democrat is serious about cracking down on gun store burglaries, he should sponsor legislation ensuring that those thieves don’t receive probation for their crimes. Of course, since that puts the onus on the criminal and not the folks trying to abide by the law, I doubt that Dick Durbin has any interest in doing so.

Dec 02, 2021 7:30 PM ET