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Posted: 5/28/2003 2:36:45 PM EDT
From the Chicago Sun-Times Mayor loses ground to gun lobby in Legislature May 28, 2003 BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter Advertisement The National Rifle Association is basking in the glow of a series of legislative victories in the General Assembly this year, including a bill that prosecutors fear would alert gun traffickers about investigations into weapons they have owned. [b] The NRA and Illinois State Rifle Association have successfully lobbied to shoot down gun-control measures Mayor Daley pushed this year. [\b]But they especially riled police and prosecutors with the passage of House Bill 515. Under the bill awaiting Gov. Blagojevich's signature, an agency requesting a firearms trace must notify the subject of the check when criminal proceedings begin or in 60 days of the investigation being closed. It also would allow the person to destroy the records associated with the trace request. "This bill is the best friend of gun traffickers," said Mike Smith, an assistant Cook County state's attorney. State's Attorney Dick Devine will tell the governor he opposes the bill, which comes as his office is boosting efforts to trace guns used in crimes against kids. Chicago police oppose the bill, too. But Todd Vandermyde, an NRA lobbyist, said the governor should sign the legislation to keep the faith with Downstate voters. "He campaigned all over southern Illinois saying, 'gun owners have nothing to fear from me,' " Vandermyde said. "This is the perfect opportunity for the governor to shed a little light on the process and make sure there are no secret investigations of law-abiding gun owners in which law enforcement agencies create databases on the guns they own." The governor is reviewing the bill, aides said. The NRA worked hard this year to defeat Daley's gun-control package, which included measures to limit gun purchases to one a month, require gun dealers to obtain state licenses in addition to federal ones and require background checks at gun shows. Another gun-show bill may reach the House floor for a vote today. House Bill 515, meanwhile, shows how gun-rights groups were able to get legislation approved. "The State Rifle Association brought the bill to me," noted State Rep. Mary K. O'Brien, (D-Coal City), the bill's sponsor. O'Brien said authorities must notify subjects of wiretaps after an investigation is done. That should apply to tracing guns, she said. O'Brien, a recipient of campaign contributions from the Fraternal Order of Police, said she did not know police and prosecutors in Chicago are opposed to the bill. "I would have worked with them if they approached us," she said. But Smith says the bill was sneaked through the legislature. Indeed, it slid through the House on a 113-1 vote on March 21. The Senate vote on May 15 was closer, 33-22, with Republicans from Downstate and the suburbs teaming up with Downstate Democrats to pass the measure. Vandermyde said the Senate vote demonstrates that advocates and opponents to gun control are not cleanly split along party lines. "It is Chicago vs. the rest of the state," he said. Smith contends the bill would financially burden law-enforcement agencies. Chicago police trace about 11,000 guns used in crimes every year, he said. "They'll have to contact 11,000 owners and provide them with the opportunity to review the records," Smith said. "They are trying to discourage tracing altogether."
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