CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped up pressure on Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday to sign a gun dealer licensing bill, but the governor still would not reveal his plans for the legislation.
Rauner has until the end of April to act on legislation, Senate Bill 1657, which would require all gun dealers in Illinois to obtain licenses from the state. He can either sign the measure, veto it, or do nothing and allow it to become law without his signature.
The mayor suggested the governor is avoiding the issue ahead of the primary election next week, and said “this is not a time for hemming and hawing.”
“He has a responsibility to tell people where he stands. He can run, but he cannot hide from this issue,” Emanuel said at an event at Chicago Police Headquarters on Monday.
The mayor said there is no reason for the governor to wait, when other states with more conservative populations have acted to enact stricter gun control laws in the wake of the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“In a time in which we cannot get a straight answer of whether the governor will sign the legislation or not, Florida just passed gun control legislation, South Carolina a ban on bump stocks. Here in Illinois? Silence from the governor’s office,” the mayor said.
Despite claiming “I’ve been clear on this issue,” Rauner refused to reveal Monday whether he would sign the gun licensing legislation. Pressed repeatedly for a yes or no, the governor would say only that he supports a “comprehensive solution.”
“What I will do, and I’ve continued to do for many days, is to work with our members of the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis to come up with real solutions together on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
The governor said he wants to ban bump stocks, find ways to make schools safer, keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and to “better support our police officers.”
Emanuel said the debate over licensing gun dealers is not a new one in Illinois, noting it has been debated in the General Assembly since 2003.
“This is not a time for hemming and hawing. It’s not a time to sleep on it. This has been in the works for 15 years. Yes or no? Licensing gun shops or not?” he said. “I know that the governor has a primary election, but he also has a primary responsibility as governor to keep all of us safe, and his election – the primary election – doesn’t take precedent over the primary concern that we all have for public safety.”
The mayor was joined by several state lawmakers, gun control advocates, and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who had just attended the arraignment hearing for the man charged with the murder of Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
““The gun dealer licensing bill will make our state better and safer. It won’t bring back our loved ones, or Commander Bauer, but it’s the least we can do to show their families that we remember them and are fighting for their memories and legacies,” Johnson said.
Emanuel and Johnson noted about 40 percent of the firearms seized by the Chicago Police Department come from Illinois gun shops.
“Are we going to license the gun dealers in Illinois in the same way that we license a liquor store, a liquor shop, a cigar shop, or a barber shop? How can the license for those business activities be warranted – which they are as part of the public safety – but gun shops not warranted? It’s a loophole that needs to be closed,” Emanuel said.
The mayor said the legislation would help reduce illegal straw purchases, in which a person buys guns for someone else who can’t legally buy them.
“It would be nice to have Springfield reinforcing our public safety goals, rather than undermining them,” Emanuel said. “Nobody’s saying this is going to solve everything. There are things we still have to do as it relates to raising the age, and bump stock legislation, but this is a key component,”
The gun licensing legislation would require dealers to have video surveillance systems at any permanent dealership, and employees would be required to undergo background checks.
While the legislation sits on Rauner’s desk, several other gun measures approved by the Illinois haven’t yet passed the Illinois Senate, including a ban on bump stocks, a ban on the sale of assault weapons to anyone under age 21, and a 72-hour waiting period to buy a high-powered weapon.