CHICAGO -- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday he will veto legislation that would have put in place a new state licensing system for gun shops, saying it would be "crushing" to small retailers.
"I'm going to veto that bill, it's just not right," Rauner told southern Illinois radio station WJPF. "It's unnecessary, burdensome regulation."
The governor, who is a hunter and told the station he is a member of the National Rifle Association, noted that the federal government already regulates firearms retailers. He said the proposal would create bureaucracy "that doesn't really keep our communities safer."
A Rauner spokeswoman said he would veto the bill later Tuesday.
Lawmakers approved it in the wake of the killing of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer and the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. While lawmakers are also weighing proposals to curb weapons in those attacks, including limits on semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines, they sought to seize on momentum to target handguns, which fuel much of the violence in Chicago and other areas of the state.
The Democratic-controlled General Assembly sent the bill to Rauner a couple of weeks ago, and the Republican governor could have waited to act until after his March 20 primary matchup against state Rep. Jeanne Ives. She voted against the legislation and pushed Rauner not to sign it. Instead, the governor's veto will come a week before the election and could take a line of attack away from the more conservative Ives.
Under the proposed rules for gun retailers, anyone who sells, leases or transfers firearms would have to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, a cost that would be limited to $1,000 every five years. Dealers and their employees would have to take training to make sure they know how to properly conduct background checks, store guns, prevent thefts and thwart straw purchases, in which someone buys a gun on behalf of someone who is barred from doing so.
Opponents had characterized the regulations as a government overreach, saying sellers are already licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which requires background checks.
They noted that the state agency that would have to oversee licensing opposed it. Officials have raised concerns about the cost of launching the new rules, saying it would require more staff. They also noted that the agency has limited experience in administering and enforcing this type of program, as it typically oversees barbers, dentists, nurses and other professions.
Supporters contend federal regulators are stretched too thin to regulate all the shops operating in Illinois, and cited data that showed a large percentage of weapons found at crime scenes come from a handful of sellers.