Former astronaut in Illinois to push background checks for gun store employees
A bill promoted by former astronaut Mark Kelly that would require background checks for all Illinois gun store employees will be introduced in Springfield in the coming days.
Kelly is the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head during a 2011 assassination attempt. His twin brother is astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently completed 340 days at the International Space Station.
Requiring all employees of a gun shop to be background-checked, instead of just the person holding the business license, will cut down on gun violence in Illinois, Kelly told the Daily Herald Editorial Board Friday.
"There are often people who work at licensed gun dealers (who) traffic in firearms," Kelly said.
"They might sell guns out the back or be aware of straw purchasing that is occurring and either ... allow it to continue to occur or often are involved in it," he added
"Straw" purchasing is the term for someone buying a firearm for someone else.
Kelly said 40 percent of guns found at crime scenes in Illinois came from gun stores, and a lot of those guns had been illegally trafficked.
His bill, called the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, would also mandate Illinois gun store employees get training on identifying gun traffickers, and would allow Illinois to audit the state's 2,400 gun shops to ascertain compliance with state and federal laws.
The full text of the bill will be available for review after it is introduced in the state house when the session resumes May 2. Kelly said it is sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Willis, a Northlake Democrat, and state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat.
Kelly and Giffords created their organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, in 2013 after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"We didn't want to look back many years later after the next Sandy Hook and the one after that and be regretful we didn't try to help," Kelly said.
While federal gun control legislation has largely been stymied, Kelly said their organization has been successful in getting what he calls common sense reforms passed in state legislatures across the country.
State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, said Friday he thinks the Gun Dealer Licensing Act sounds like a solution in search of a problem.
"Most gun store employees in Illinois are already going to have an FOID card and already have had a background check," Sullivan said. "People are just throwing spatter on the wall and seeing what sticks."
Kelly retired from the Navy and NASA in June 2011 after four space missions. His identical twin brother, Scott, recently returned from his "Year in Space," testing the long-term effects of space travel on the body.
Asked if he is jealous of his brother's time in space, Mark Kelly said not really, but added he would go back to space tomorrow if asked.