'Absolutely political theater': Naperville gun shop owner questions motives behind sales ban ordinance
Robert Bevis insists his family's future is at stake Tuesday night.
When the Naperville City Council votes on an ordinance banning the sale of certain high-powered rifles, the outcome will directly impact two businesses in the city. While Range USA is a chain with multiple locations, Bevis' family-operated Law Weapons and Supply has just one in a strip mall on North Aurora Road.
If the ordinance passes, Bevis said, his business is unlikely to survive. Faced with that possibility, he said he'll exhaust every legal option to keep it viable, including seeking an injunction on the ordinance.
Beyond his legal avenues, Bevis is making his opinion clear on the motives behind the proposed ordinance.
"They know it's not going to reduce any crime or stop one person from getting a gun or stop anyone from coming into Naperville to commit a crime," he said. "Criminals don't buy guns from shops like ours.
"It is absolutely political theater."
But last month, Councilman Ian Holzhauer said it was his duty to act on an ordinance like this.
"As an elected official, I can do something," he said. "It might be something small, but I can do something to help keep our community safe and stand for our community values."
The first reading of the ordinance at last month's city council meeting prompted more than 50 people to speak on both sides of the issue. Bevis and many of his customers were among the speakers who argued Law Weapons and Supply is part of the solution to counter the problem of gun violence and mass shootings.
Bevis and his supporters talked about the immense training offered at the establishment, including two free hours with each gun purchase. They also spoke about the level of scrutiny that goes into every gun sale. Based on the work Law Weapons does with law enforcement agencies, including the Naperville Police Department, Mayor Steve Chirico and the council members agreed to insert exceptions into a revised ordinance.
The sale of high-powered rifles and high-capacity magazines would be allowed to federal, state or local law enforcement agencies and officers. The exception also would apply to the U.S. military, including the Illinois National Guard.
Handguns and their high-capacity magazines were removed from the sale ban list.
Even with the exceptions, Bevis said, the future of his business would be in jeopardy. He said the popular AR-15 rifle and its accessories account for more than 50% of his sales, and a large chunk of his customer base would go elsewhere if the ban went into effect.
"Losing just the AR-15 rifle, I would not be able to pay my bills," Bevis said. "You don't make any money dealing with the police department only. Them carving out law enforcement or military, that doesn't do much."
Proponents of the sales ban have said the survival of a business pales in comparison to the possible prevention of crimes like the Highland Park Fourth of July shooting that killed seven and wounded dozens.
"They are comparing a life of a business versus the life of a child: my child, your child," Yeena Yoo, representing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said at last month's city council meeting. "There is no contest."
Bevis argues his business does more to stop shootings than the proposed ordinance would. He said since moving to Naperville from Oakbrook Terrace in the mid-2010s, Law Weapons has acted as a firewall preventing sales to people who shouldn't own guns.
Still, Bevis says he knows it's an uphill climb to prevent the ordinance from passing Tuesday night.
"I can't just go out and start some new business or move to another town where this might happen all over again," he said.