Now is the time for the Governor to Act – Stop Illegal Gun Trafficking in IL

Rauner needs to do more than talk—and veto—on gun violence


If you go to a store and drop an expensive piece of crystal, the rule is the same the world over: you just bought it, pony up.

That’s pretty much my sentiment about how Gov. Bruce Rauner is promising some new and improved plan now that his veto of a bill to begin state licensing of gun dealers has been sustained.

You own it, governor. For likely political reasons, you knocked off a good if imperfect bill that police departments all over Chicago desperately wanted to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys, guns that are used in murders and rapes and stick-ups. Now it’s up to you to present a replacement that does the same thing, or pay the price with hundreds of thousands of moderate suburban voters who really do care about this issue.

Some background:

For years, police officials in Chicago and other areas have been complaining that a large share of the guns seized after crimes here come from just a few shops, some in the state and some across the line in Indiana. Those shops are licensed and regulated by the federal government, but there are few agents and lots of dealers. And all of those people report to President Donald Trump, who is focused on pleasing his base, particularly rural and semi-rural blue-collar folks for whom the thought of having any limits on their ability to buy the gun of their choice is a virtual death sentence, one that would leave them undefended against an evil world.

So, after several years of trying, the Democratic-dominated General Assembly actually passed a bill. It would have required state licensing of anyone who sells or leases at least 10 firearms a year, with mandatory training of sales personnel on how to do background checks and prevent strawman purchases by a person acting as an agent for someone else. There would be a licensing fee of $1,000 for every five years. And local sheriffs would have had to approve each license in their county.

The bill draw support from a wide range of officials, from Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to Cardinal Blase Cupich, who urged Rauner to immediately sign it into law while work continued on other matters. Instead, Rauner vetoed it.

Duplicate licensing rules “do little to improve public safety,” Rauner said in his veto message. “Such narrowly focused legislative responses make for good political cover, but they do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing thousands of crimes in our state each year with illegal guns,” he added.

The veto came not many weeks or months after passage, as is usually the case when Rauner deals with legislation, but shortly thereafter, on March 13, just days before the primary election in which Rauner was running for his political life against conservative challenger Jeanne Ives. If you think the timing is just a coincidence, I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

In the months since, Democrats have been trying to round up the votes for an override. But sponsors had trouble, because downstate Democrats love their personal pieces almost as much as Republicans. The deadline for an override effort was yesterday, when the chief sponsor of the bill, Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, pulled the plug, saying he had adequate support in the Senate but not the House.

Harmon also said he’s making some progress with suburban Republicans on a slightly modified version of the bill. We’ll see if things work out.

Meanwhile Rauner, who in his veto message promised to roll out a comprehensive anti-violence package within days, released a statement late yesterday saying a detailed plan will be issued, um, soon. Real soon.

The statement: “All any father or mother really wants to know is that their family is safe. We need to focus on illegal gun trafficking, school safety, how to best keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. These are bipartisan issues that we are working on collaboratively in our Public Safety Working Group to drive real solutions.”

Team Rauner also suggests Democrats are looking for an issue more than a solution, or they would have passed a bill to ban bump-stocks that Rauner favors. State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, has a different take: The bill was watered down by Republicans, but Senate Democrats in the next two days will repass the original bill and send it to the House.

Only an idiot won’t admit that Democrats indeed think they have an issue here. And they’ve made some mistakes themselves, notably the failure of Supt. Johnson’s department to flag people it believes are mentally unfit to carry firearms under state law.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Illinois was about to get a law that would have helped, and Rauner killed it. Any number of things in this world are regulated by both the state and the Feds. That apparently was not convincin’ to our Harley ridin’, big talkin’ state chief executive.

I’ll wait to see what else he rolls out. Meantime, there’s no doubt who wears the jacket for this particular failure of government.

As the Lake County State’s Attorney, I am honored and humbled every day to lead the fight against crime, and to strive to ensure equal and just treatment under the law. I have been an attorney for twenty-two years – and each of those years has made me a stronger and smarter advocate for people, for ideas, and for the principles that unite us all.

I am so proud to lead an office of 140 dedicated colleagues who serve the public by prosecuting crime, advocating for victims, and planning crime prevention programs. I am also proud to work with hundreds of Lake County police officers on a daily basis to connect with every community and to develop comprehensive, holistic plans to respond to the mental health and economic crisis that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On one particular day, July 4, 2022, I was saddened, inspired, and motivated by the bravery of so many people. We will always stand with the victims and honor the police and other first responders who ran toward the danger. Just as so many heroes that day thought only of themselves, I also witnessed the prosecutors in my office answer the call to serve survivors and their community – even on one of its darkest days.

Every moment that I have been your legal representative, I have worked tirelessly to oversee prosecutions and to implement policies that make my family and my neighbors safer in the short term and in the long term. That is the job of the State’s Attorney: to prosecute, to innovate, and to strategically plan.

I was raised in a small town. My parents are teachers, and from them, I learned that everyone must be treated equally and that America’s sacred mission is to provide a political, economic, and legal system that allows anyone to prosper regardless of the circumstances of their birth. After graduating from Knox College and the University of Chicago Law School, I spent two years at a first-rate civil law firm in Chicago where I learned that hard work and attention to detail on every case mean the difference between success and failure.

With my wonderful wife Stephanie, I am raising my two sons, Sam and Teddy, in Lake County. Nothing is more important to me than my family’s safety and I bring that passion and determination to protect all families with me to work every day.

I joined the Lake County Public Defender’s Office in 2003 and started my own law firm in 2009. From 2003 until 2020, I watched the Lake County legal system fail to prioritize violent crime, prevent wrongful prosecutions, or address racial disparities.

So, in 2019, I decided to run for State’s Attorney so that I could serve our community by improving a local legal system that cared more about covering up its mistakes and biases than uncovering new and innovative ways to help people.

I won the 2020 election, and became the first Democrat to hold this position in 40 years. Bringing in a new party wasn’t as important as ending 40 years of one mindset that had forgotten the people and that had failed to act urgently to develop new strategic plans to prevent crime while also ensuring that each prosecution is smart, moral, and just.

We have followed through on our promises. We have built the first-ever violent crimes unit, increased prosecutors in our domestic violence division, and vastly upgraded our cyber lab. Now, we have top-notch software and personnel to finally keep up with those who would exploit others.

We have been awarded a large federal grant to bring the first ever Human Trafficking Task Force to Lake County. We have deepened our investment in people by bringing in more victim specialists and raising the salaries of many of our prosecutors.

But the work goes on. We must expand our prevention efforts that are starting with the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative launched in 2022. And we know that the opioid crisis touches thousands of lives throughout this country.

I am proud to serve on the Executive Board of the Lake County Opioid Initiative which has been working tirelessly since its founding in 2012 to reverse a devastating trend of increased overdoses. In 2022, our office was part of a national settlement against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

As an attorney of 22 years, I have committed my life to helping people, and I have conducted over 70 jury trials in Lake County, and handled appeals that have culminated in over 20 oral arguments before the appellate court and Supreme Court of Illinois.

I see my time in this office as the next phase of helping a community that I love and where I have chosen to raise my family. In my first term, we have made Lake County safer and fairer through just prosecutions, constitutional policing, and innovative crime prevention policies.