The firearms industry has had a quite the shake-up this past week. The NRA Annual Meeting kicked off on Friday, April 28th. Hours before, the news broke that notable firearm manufacturers Rock River Arms and Springfield Armory had spent lobbying dollars that allowed Illinois SB-1657 to pass. SB-1657 was a strict gun control bill opposed by the NSSF, NRA, and other gun rights group. After the news broke at the NRA Annual Meeting many attendees confronted both Rock River Arms and Springfield representatives. Both companies have now issued official statements on the topic.
What is SB-1657?
SB-1657 was authored by Democrat Don Harmon, a long time gun control advocate, and sponsored by numerous other liberal state senators. The bill focused on making new licensing restrictions on who can and cannot legally sell firearms in the state of Illinois. Among the new rules put in place would be a five person licensing board, yearly gun purchase limits, and dealer shut downs for a slew of new reasons. The scariest part of this, besides the state controlling who can and cannot sell firearms, is that anyone who transfers (buys, sells, or takes possession of) ten or more firearms within a calendar year is instantly considered a firearm dealer, and as such would need to have the proper paperwork filed. Those who transferred 10 or more guns without an approved firearm sales license would then be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor for the first offense, and a Class 4 Felony for the second offense. Needless to say, this bill is no good. Unfortunately, the bill needed 30 votes to pass gthe state Senate, and the final vote was 30-21, sending the bill to the state house.
Why Did Gun Companies Support It?
Rock River Arms and Springfield Armory are both major donors to the Illinois Firearm Manufacturers Association. At $50,000 each, these companies probably are the biggest contributors to the Manufacturers’ association. Jay Keller, the registered lobbyist for the IFMA, began lobbying against the bill. However, Keller made a deal with the bill’s sponsors. If the authors of the bill offered to “carve out” or exempt the manufacturers from the restrictions of the bill, then Keller would stop lobbying against the bill, and switch his position to neutral. A neutral position would then, in turn, signal to senators on the fence that they could vote in favor of the bill and not jeopardize future campaign contributions from the IFMA. In the end, this signal was heard loud and clear…by the firearms community.
Statement from Rock River Arms
President and Owner of Rock River Arms, Chuck Larson, sent out this message on May 1st:
Rock River Arms, Inc. (RRA) wants to assure the Illinois (and national) firearms community that we are still 100 percent opposed to the Gun Dealer Licensing Act – SB1657, the house version of the same bill, and any potential final legislation that may come from those bills along with any other infringements on the gun rights of law-abiding citizens everywhere.
For more than twenty years, Rock River Arms and Springfield Armory have actively opposed gun control legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. In 2009, we partnered with other manufacturers to form an organization geared towards representing our interests – The Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA). Historically, that organization has done well in representing us in Springfield, Illinois.
We had no reason to believe that it was doing anything beyond representing the firearms community’s (Illinois firearms manufacturers, dealers and gun owners) best interests, keeping us well-informed on relevant legislation and issues, acting on our behalf. In the case of SB1657, there was a disconnect and that representation was misguided. While we do believe that IFMA acted in what it felt was the best interests of its members, we were as shocked as everyone else to find ourselves exempted from provisions of SB1657 and that IFMA was no
longer opposing that bill, even though RRA still opposed it.
Again, Rock River Arms wants to emphasize (regardless of anything that may have been said or done, mistakenly or otherwise, by any other party on our behalf) its continued total opposition to SB1657, the Illinois House version of the bill and any final legislation that may emerge. This includes any provisions found in Gun Dealer Licensing Act SB1657, along with any other threats that may infringe upon our gun
Statement from Springfield Armory
On May 1st, Springfield Armory released this initial statement:
Springfield Armory has always fought hand-in-hand with the NRA, NSSF, ISRA and many others for legislation that fiercely protects the Second Amendment, individual rights and the industry as a whole. Our fight continues today as some members of the Illinois legislature are pushing to overregulate the industry through Gun Dealer Licensing Act (SB1657).
“At the time of my initial statement to the media, I was ill-informed of the ramifications of this bill and its detrimental effects to the Second Amendment, which I have personally fought to protect my entire life. I can tell you now, we at Springfield Armory are unequivocally 100 percent against this bill and will continue to work with the NRA and others to ensure that it is defeated,” said Dennis Reese, Chief Executive Officer, Springfield Armory.
Springfield Armory, like Rock River Arms, was not aware of the actions taken by our trade association, IFMA, until after the fact. We take this situation very seriously and are looking into how this very unfortunate lapse in communication occurred.
Springfield Armory has fought and defeated legislation like this in Illinois for the past 15 years. We are wholeheartedly against this bill and will fight to see it defeated as the unnecessary and harmful overreach that it is.
Springfield CEO Makes a Statement
Then, on May 2nd, Springfield Armory released another statement; this one from CEO Dennis Reese:
The Executive Director of the Illinois Firearm Manufacturers Association (IFMA) acted without our prior knowledge and against our principles and those of the industry as a whole with respect to the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. We no longer have confidence in IFMA and after speaking to other directors we have made the decision to sever all ties with the organization, effective immediately.
I take full responsibility for my failure of oversight in this case and deeply apologize to my employees, customers and industry partners for the distraction and divisiveness this situation has caused within our tight-knit community. Our industry has always stood strong and fought fiercely together in the past and I am personally committed to defeating this harmful legislation. To that end, I have pledged to the NRA that we will bring the full resources of my company to bear in this fight.
We are not new to this battle, Springfield Armory has fought and defeated legislation like this in Illinois for decades. We are wholeheartedly against this bill and will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Illinois State Rifle Association and others to see it defeated as the unnecessary and harmful overreach that it is.
We want to assure all Americans, like us, who fight to protect the Second Amendment that we and our industry partners will leave no stone unturned to defeat this bill.