Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said a lawsuit challenging the Illinois Gun Dealer License Certification Act is “not ripe for judicial review” and should be dismissed because state police have yet to fully implement the act and that no part of the law has been used to stop dealers from doing business.
The attorney general responded Monday to a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court filed by several gun stores across the state and the Illinois State Rifle Association.
The association last month sued the state over the law, which requires federally licensed gun dealers in Illinois to get a state license in addition to a federal license. The association and several gun dealers from across the state said rules had not been approved and they didn’t know how much complying with those regulations would cost.
Just before the law went into effect, it was revealed around 1,200 federally licensed gun dealers in Illinois had not applied for a state license.
The association's lawsuit, in part, said the rules haven’t been filed and dealers were closing, or deciding to no longer operate in Illinois.
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said last week he looked forward to a hearing Sept. 5.
“All of the people in our lawsuit have never sold a gun to a wrong person, have never done anything wrong and yet they're being punished by the system,” Pearson said.
“There is an ongoing administrative rulemaking process in which administrative rules will be finalized and will give full effect to the provisions of the Act,” lawyers for the Attorney General’s office wrote in motion filed Monday seeking to have the case dismissed.
Proposed rules for the were filed by state police Aug. 6, according to documents attached to the response.
“The rulemaking process allows an opportunity for the public, including plaintiffs, to comment on the proposed administrative rules,” the state wrote in its motion. “[A]ny concerns regarding the alleged vagueness of the Act can be addressed in this process. Moreover, there are no allegations showing that defendants have taken any adverse action against any of the plaintiff firearms dealers.”
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said last week after the rules were filed that anyone who has applied for the license could operate. He said last week "we want to make sure this thing works."
"We want to make sure that the law that's been passed will be effective and that's why the process has been put in place the way it has been," Kelly said.
Some dealers don’t want to invest the $300 to $1,500 per business operating name to apply and comply with the new state mandates required on top of what’s required to get the federal firearms dealer license.
“[Gun dealers] may spend $20,000 on a security system for example and it might not work [for the state mandate] so they have to go spend another $20,000,” Pearson said.
State Rep. Blaine Whilhour, R-Beecher City said the law going into effect without rules last month “really put those [gun dealers] in limbo.”
“[Gun dealers] can’t get their permit but [the state] still want their money,” Wilhour said. “There is a lot of local gun dealers in my district that just threw up their hands and went out of business, but that’s exactly what they wanted in this bill. That was the agenda all along.”
Supporters of the measure said it was meant to put tighter controls on gun dealers to combat straw buyers or other illegal or illicit firearms trade activities.
The state’s response also argued the Illinois State Rifle Association lacked standing to file the suit, "because the participation of the particular firearms dealers is necessary, the Illinois State Rifle Association lacks associational standing to pursue an as-applied challenge on behalf of firearms dealers in Illinois.”
Gov. J.B. Prtizker signed the act earlier this year after a procedural hold kept it from going to former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who had promised to veto it.