Newly signed gun-law reforms have both fans, foes


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SPRINGFIELD — Champions of gun-law reforms say a bill requiring a three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases, signed into law this week by Gov. Bruce Rauner, is "common-sense reform" that will make Illinois a safer state.

Critics say state laws were tough enough as is — and extending the 72-hour waiting period that had existed for handguns to all types of firearms was an unnecessary step.

"There are already waiting periods in place," starting with the Firearm Owners Identification card Illinoisans must be issued by state police before purchasing a gun, said Shawn Hudson, 45, of Champaign. "The FOID card is the biggest deterrent there is. You're talking about a month or more wait time before you can even buy a gun. Illinois law is confusing as it is."

The bill signed Monday by Rauner applied the three-day wait already on the books for handgun sales to assault weapons, including the AR-15, in an effort to standardize the "cooling-off period" policy.

Backers say the new rules will give law enforcement ample time to conduct proper background checks, as well as prevent people from hurting themselves or others. The latter was the focus of another bill Rauner signed, allowing courts to grant emergency orders of protection and take guns away from individuals deemed to be at-risk — commonly referred to as a "red flag" law.

"Having an across-the-board 'cooling off' period for firearms could prevent people from causing harm to themselves or others," said state Sen. Elgie R. Sims, D-Chicago. "Requiring a 72-hour waiting period is a common-sense reform that will help keep our communities safe."

But gun-reform advocates didn't get everything they wanted. Rauner also vowed to veto a measure that would have put stricter regulations on gun-dealer licensing, in part because "it has no appreciable potential to reduce criminal access to guns," and would "create another unnecessary regulatory burden for 2,700 small businesses."

Champaign firearm owner James Seikel, 35, who works at a local gun range, said the across-the-board waiting period will be easier to explain to soon-to-be gun owners. But he questioned the red-flag bill's stated intent of preventing people who pose an "immediate and present danger" of causing harm to themselves or others.

"Making someone wait a couple more days is not going to make the suicides go down," Seikel said.

Some research suggests otherwise. A study that analyzed the impact of four types of handgun laws — waiting periods, universal background checks, gun locks and open-carry regulations — found that each law was associated "with significantly lower firearm suicide rates and the proportion of suicides resulting from firearms."

The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, also revealed that states with waiting-period laws had 51 percent fewer firearm suicides and a 27 percent lower overall suicide rate than states without such laws.

Waiting-period laws also reduced gun homicides by about 17 percent, according to a 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that the "17 states with waiting periods avoid roughly 750 gun homicides per year as a result of this policy." And it claimed that going further and expanding the wait times to all other U.S. states would prevent an additional 910 gun homicides a year.