Following the lead of other gun hating / gun control states, the freshly elected Democratic Governor of Illinois has signed a new Gun Dealer Licensing law. Not content with firearms retailers already being one of the most heavily regulated industries, closely monitored by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives), the new governor has created a licensing scheme guaranteed to do one thing and one thing only, eliminate firearm retailers in the State of Illinois.
The purported intent of this law is to enhance “responsible business practices” and uses as justification that the ATF is far too busy to keep a close enough eye on Illinois’s approximately 2400 Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs). It also claims the ATF lacks the authority to enforce the kind of “responsible business practices” the State of Illinois thinks should be implemented on the state’s firearm retailers.
Among the many things the $1500 five year state license gets a firearm retailer are increased record keeping requirements including electronic inventory and sales records linked to the State, the need for increased security systems including 90 days storage of video surveillance – reviewable by law enforcement at any time, mandatory training and annual in-service training for the owner and all employees, interviews for approval from the State, the right of denial by the local law enforcement agency, specifically worded legal signage in one inch high letters, state mandated zoning limitations and of course, unannounced inspections and review of all business operations. All additional cost and administrative burdens firearm retailers must now bear.
Like most gun control measures, this is being sold as a “public safety” law without any proof that any of the things it requires will actually increase public safety. It all plays into the myth that firearm retailers are the cause of violent crime solely because they legally sell firearms.
Ignored are numerous statistics proving criminals don’t buy their guns legally. Even the recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has found that the vast majority of criminals armed with firearms obtained their guns from a place other than a gun shop or gun show. The evidence revealed that only 1.3 percent of prisoners who committed crimes with firearms had obtained them through a retail sale.
The Illinois State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association have called this unprecedented and have promised a lawsuit. Unfortunately, it’s a little too little, a little too late. The precedent has already been set by other states.
For those of us who work in the firearms industry in California, this is old news. The State has long since licensed firearm retailers and by implementing its electronic DROS (Dealer Record of Sale) system has registered the buyer, seller and firearm information of every transaction for years.
But wait, there’s more!! The Illinois Gun Dealer Licensing law specifically calls out that there is nothing that prevents local jurisdictions from implementing further restrictions and regulations. Again, this is nothing new to those of us in California.
Local anti-gun cities have been enacting their own firearm retailer licensing schemes, each with redundant or additional security, record keeping and inspection requirements. All of which require local political approval and additional costs. The justification being used is that the ATF and the State licensing agencies are far too busy to keep an eye on all the FFLs in the area.
But that’s not all!! The latest trend in the most progressive anti-gun municipalities – my hometown included – is to funnel any new firearm retailers through the local Conditional Use Permit process, a politically based ‘feel good’ process that has no clear definitions of what is needed to be approved and can be denied just because the local NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) crowd doesn’t want a new gun store in town.
All of this has one purpose and one purpose only. By making it so costly, so complex and so easy to make an administrative mistake in the myriad regulations from so many licensing authorities that firearms retailers will simply be run out of business.
The City of San Francisco, CA is held up as a model city when it comes to firearm dealers. Its comprehensive package of ordinances, designed to “ensure that local firearms dealers utilize common sense and responsible business practices”, has had the exact impact intended – the last firearm retailer in the city closed in 2015.
The San Francisco supervisor who wrote the ordinance that finally drove the store to close had this to say: “From my perspective, if the last gun store in San Francisco wants to close its doors because of my legislation, so be it,” he said. “This store sold over 1,000 guns each year. I would much rather have a preschool or coffee store in the neighborhood than a gun shop.”
So there you have it; firearm retailers are being driven out of business one by one, state by state, community by community. Does this impact your Second Amendment rights? So far the courts have said no since you have other buying options in other communities. But what happens when they are gone too? What happens when your entire state has been purged of firearm retailers and the law says you can’t buy firearms out of state?
If you think it can’t happen, look to our neighbors to the south. Mexico has one, and only one legal firearm retailer. The Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales is outside Mexico City and run by the Mexican Army. Funny thing is Mexico’s Constitution also guarantees the right to bear arms. But years and years of limitations and regulations – all in the name of “public safety” have restricted firearms so heavily that almost nobody can buy one legally. And you can see for yourself the type of “public safety” the Mexican people now enjoy.
How “safe” do you have to feel before you help stop the erosion of your Second Amendment rights?
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A preposterous claim, isn’t it? To think an inanimate object causes violence is ludicrous. Yet that is the base concept behind the current fad of so-called “Red Flag” laws. Also known by such names as Extreme Violence Protection Orders or Gun Violence Protection Orders, these trendy new laws claim to be the solution to violence by separating owners from their firearms based solely on the word of a family member. Deemed “legal” since it involves a judge stripping you of your Constitutional rights, nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve written about these mockeries of justice before, but I’d like to point out something people continue to be missing. Primarily, that removing firearms from someone does absolutely nothing to prevent violence or increase public safety.
The intent of these gun grabs is to prevent someone from harming themselves or others. Thanks to these new laws, a family member may petition to have another family member’s firearms, magazines and ammunition confiscated. This secret, ex-parte hearing – which in some places may now be done over the phone with the judge – without the firearm owner’s knowledge or attendance, orders the police to immediate confiscate the firearms. From the point of view of the state, problem solved.
In reality, it solves absolutely nothing. In the case of a potentially suicidal person, the order only removes firearms and accessories, not any other potential method of suicide. Drugs, poisons, knives, ropes, cars, high buildings, bridges and busy highways are all still within reach. In the case of a potentially homicidal person, every other method of killing is still available to them – cars, bombs, poison, fire, knives, clubs, hands & feet… you name it, it probably can and has been used as a weapon.
In other words, what hasn’t been addressed is the PERSON. It’s not the gun that is potentially dangerous; it’s the person. These orders remove one and only one possible weapon from a person’s control. It does NOTHING to prevent this person from acquiring or using any other type of weapon. It does NOTHING to restrict this person from doing ANYTHING.
The legal standard to initiate firearm confiscations under these so-called Red Flag laws is set purposefully low. It can be as simple as conversation between two people where one hears what they think is someone contemplating suicide or violence towards others.
The person accused, the one who had their firearms confiscated now has the burden of proof to show they are innocent and not a threat to others. Legal costs, time and wages lost from work, mental health evaluations, costs related to the return of their property – if the law enforcement agency will even return it after a legal order to do so – are all born by the person accused, even if accused unjustly. The legal recourse for being falsely accused is of course up to the very same people who are advocating for the removal of your firearms in the first place.
Why should it be easy to strip away someone else’s constitutionally protected rights? Why should anyone have such a low burden of proof to strip you of your Second Amendment rights in secret? Why should the person accused then be responsible for proving their innocence to avoid permanent infringement of their rights? Why should they be financially responsible for the costs incurred by someone else’s accusations?
The reason why is simple. The Second Amendment is considered a second-class right, not entitled to full protection under the law.
What is a first-class right? A CNN reporter having his White House press pass revoked for pushing an intern’s arm away. A federal judge ruled the White House’s decision to boot the reporter had violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions. Or a Broward County Election supervisor being suspended for incompetence. Another federal judge ruled the former Florida Governor violated the election official’s constitutional due-process rights when he suspended and “vilified” her without first allowing her to make her own case.
Yet stripping away your Second Amendment rights, entering your home or businesses and removing your property – by force if necessary – based on hearsay evidence alone in a secret ex-parte hearing is perfectly acceptable.
Supporters of these confiscations will point to the fact that a judge must grant these orders to provide adequate protection are therefore “legal”. Yet we’ve already seen abuse. Recently in my former home state of Vermont, police learned of an overheard conversation about a planned school shooting with specific time and date details. One of the two youths involved – neither of which had firearms of his own – claimed he could get access to firearms from where they were locked up at the home of a non-involved relative. The police were able to get an order under Vermont’s new Extreme Risk Protection Order law to confiscate the relative’s firearms.
Even under Vermont’s very broad law, this overreach was illegal. Yet instead of the judge being removed from the bench and disbarred, the police officer fired and decertified and both of them charged with violating the Constitutional rights of someone who had nothing to do with this alleged planned incident, it is being hailed as a success and shining example of greatness of the new law.
States and counties are all so proud to report on how many times they have used these so-called Red Flag laws to confiscate someone’s firearm. What they have yet to report is how many were reversed and the person’s property ordered returned during the person’s first hearing.
Nobody seems to be concerned with the number of reversals or with how much it has cost the individuals involved to retrieve their property and clear their name. Nobody seems to be concerned with false statements made by vindictive or simply misinformed relatives.
Taking someone into physical police custody, denying them of their freedom, requires probable cause. Why shouldn’t this same level of proof be required when stripping someone of his or her Constitutional rights? Why have we allowed these so called “Red Flag” laws to proliferate when they do absolutely nothing to address public safety? And finally, what are you doing to put an end to these violations of your rights?
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