Protection of Illinois gun owners' privacy picking up steam

  • April 12th, 2011 10:38 am CT

Kurt Hofmann

When the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Illinois State Police, for the names of the 1.3 million Illinois residents with a Firearm Owners ID (FOID--required in Illinois to possess any firearm, ammunition, or even a TASER) card, their journalistic "need" for this information was a bit less than compelling.  From Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard's letter to the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Associated Press, which has requested the list be made public by the state police, has admitted they wanted the list to see which sports stars, celebrities and politicians are in possession of firearms for publication.

That reason, though, was apparently good enough for the AG's office, under Attorney General Lisa Madigan, which ruled that the Illinois State Police are required to release the information.
Many newspapers quickly and enthusiastically jumped on board with the ruling, claiming that this would somehow "hold government accountable."  That argument simply does not hold water, as we've talked about before:

The far more fundamental issue, though, is of course that this information is not legitimately the government's to "account" for.  The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental, and explicitly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.  That right's licensure, then, has no legitimacy whatsoever.  To keep government "in check," what needs to be done is not to require it to reveal to whom it has granted "permission" to own firearms, but to strip it of the power to either grant or deny that permission.

In the meantime, the information has not yet been released, as the ISP fights the ruling.  Also, as National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea notes in his "Rights Watch" column in Guns Magazine, there is a legislative effort to permanently protect gun owners' privacy, although at the time of that writing, HB 7 had stalled in committee.  Actually, HB 7 is still stalled, and its Senate counterpart, SB 27, seems not to be faring much better.
Update: I should have mentioned that a major reason that this information has stayed private is that the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) filed a lawsuit successfully securing a temporary restraining order against that release.  That temporary restraining order has been indefinitely extended, until further order of court, with another hearing scheduled for Thursday.  This court action has played a major role in buying time for the legislative measure to pass.  Meanwhile, a majority of Illinois' congressional delegation has written a letter to AG Madigan's office requesting that the ruling be rescinded.
As of last Friday, though HB 7 and SB 27 ceased to be the only games in town, as the House passed a new bill (well, not really that new, but newly amended to deal with this issue).  HB 3500 easily passed (98-12) in a House vote, with broad bipartisan support.  From the Greenwich Time:

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday that would bar the state police from releasing the names of people legally allowed to own guns, a response to fears by many firearm owners that their privacy could soon be compromised.
The measure would reverse last month's ruling by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office that the list of people with Firearm Owner Identification cards is a public document.

Of the 12 "Nay" votes, it should be noted, all were placed by Democrats, 10 of whom represent districts located within Cook County (with the other two both also being "upstate"), and one being AG Lisa Madigan's father, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.
HB 3500 now goes to the Senate, where it already has six sponsors (one of whom was added within the last hour).
Call your state senators, Illinois gun owners.
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