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updated: 2/9/2012 5:51 AM

Suburban hardware store owners want chemical law scaled back

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  • Kent Gaffney

    Kent Gaffney

By Ryan Voyles

SPRINGFIELD -- Some suburban hardware store owners say a controversial new law should be scaled back because customers shouldn't have to sign a log book to buy household drain cleaners.

"We've had people walk out of our stores and refuse to purchase the product rather than register," said Richard Schroeder, owner of Schroeder's Hardware in Lombard.

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, requires consumers to provide identification and sign a registration log if they were to purchase caustic chemicals, and those who did not could face a Class 4 felony.

While the law is targeted at industrial strength chemicals that could be used as chemical weapons, the language of the law has confused some store owners, who have been requiring customers to sign the registry log for even the most common household products.

"Our customers get offended, they start asking why we're collecting their information," said John McHugh, owner of Ace Hardware in Fox River Grove.

McHugh said his store has dealt with long delays at the cash register to the point of needing to hire additional cashiers.

Stores that fail to cooperate could face up to a $1,500 fine.

Rep. Kent Gaffney, a Lake Barrington Republican, has proposed clarifying some language of the law, specifically adding exemptions for common household drain cleaners, pesticides and paints.

"It was a law with good intent, but the rules have not been put together, and your local hardware stores are having problems determining the law's intention," Gaffney said.

While he still stands behind the legislation he co-sponsored last year, state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, said he too has heard some complaints from constituents and is open to amending it to exclude household products.

The law was approved after reports of people throwing caustic drain cleaner into victims' faces.

Still, some merchants would rather see the law abolished completely.

Rob Karr, a vice president for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the law has hurt businesses and said he'll be pushing for it to be repealed.

Any changes to the law could be difficult, as the law passed unanimously in the General Assembly just last year.

But McHugh says he'll be tracking it closely.

"It's just puts more pressure on us to act on it and on state troopers to enforce it," he said. "It's just silly."

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