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Gun control advocates turn lobbying efforts to local mayors.

Byline: Christopher Placek

An Arlington Heights-based group pushing for the state to license gun dealers is focusing its lobbying efforts on suburban mayors, law enforcement and clergy who could persuade undecided legislators.

That was the thinking behind a show of force Monday night at the Arlington Heights village board meeting, when dozens of residents packed the boardroom to call on their mayor and trustees to sign a letter supporting Illinois Senate Bill 1657, the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. The bill passed the state Senate 30-21 last April and is pending in the House.

"We find as we're sitting down to talk to state representatives across the state, they're looking for support from their constituencies, but they're also influenced by local elected officials, law enforcement and faith leaders," said Kathleen Sances, president/CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, one group behind the large turnout in Arlington Heights.

So far, the organization has gotten 14 mayors across the state to sign onto a letter addressed to the General Assembly and governor. The list includes mayors in St. Charles, Gurnee, Skokie, Morton Grove, Evanston and Highland Park.

Two legislators said to be undecided on the bill are state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, and Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat -- both of whom aren't seeking reelection and are considered moderates. Sances said she's lobbying both and other potential swing votes in the collar counties.

The legislation calls for state licensing of gun stores and background checks of store employees, among other requirements. Advocates say it's necessary because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which handles federal licensing of gun shops, infrequently audits and inspects those stores.

Gun rights advocates argue the new state rules would add another layer of red tape and force smaller stores out of business.

Sances said her PAC and its associated coalition of 120 member organizations throughout the state focuses on one bill at a time -- which is why they're pushing this particular piece of legislation.

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last week prompted members of a local chapter of the League of Women Voters -- also a part of the coalition -- to show up to the board meeting in Arlington Heights. Members of the league chapter, which covers Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove, Prospect Heights, Wheeling and Elk Grove Village, also are leading letter-writing campaigns and making phone calls to legislators, according to Heidi Graham, the chapter's presiding officer.

At least six Arlington Heights trustees said Monday they're in favor of sending a letter in support of the bill. Mayor Tom Hayes said he's not opposed but wanted to further explore the content of the legislation.

Village Manager Randy Recklaus said Tuesday village staff is now reviewing the legislation with the board before a letter is drafted that would represent the consensus of their views.

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Feb 21, 2018
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