SPRINGFIELD -- Yellow-clad gun owners swarmed the Illinois Statehouse for the annual Gun Owners Lobby Day on Thursday. Their message: Let us carry concealed firearms, and keep the fact that we have FOID cards private.
SPRINGFIELD -- Yellow-clad gun owners swarmed the Illinois Statehouse for the annual Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day on Thursday. Their message: Let us carry concealed firearms, and keep the fact that we have FOID cards private.
“I believe every citizen should support the Second Amendment,” said Joel Gain, 74, a Petersburg cabinetmaker. “It’s just as important as the First Amendment. The Second Amendment bought and paid for the First Amendment, and a lot of people don’t realize that.”
The event drew an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 gun owners to the Statehouse, according to a representative of the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees the building.
“We’ll flood the Capitol, and everyone will be wearing yellow shirts and yellow caps, so they’ll know who we are,” Illinois State Rifle Association president Donald Moran said before the rally.
The event started at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, where the lobby was crowded with people wearing yellow caps, shirts, sweaters and jackets.
Among speakers were state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Otis McDonald, whose U.S. Supreme Court case against the city of Chicago overturned that city’s handgun ban.
“Let there be no doubt about it, Dan Rutherford supports concealed carry in the state of Illinois,” Rutherford told the crowd, which responded with a standing ovation.
Concealed carry was top priority for many in attendance.
“I’m in favor of concealed carry,” said Jeff Motler, 45, a Springfield engineer with AT&T. “We have the right to protect ourselves in our homes, but not in the street.”
Opponents, who have bottled up concealed-carry laws in the legislature in the past, say concealed weapons would simply worsen gun violence in Illinois. Concealed-carry supporters, however, believe the current General Assembly is more open to the idea. Illinois is one of only two states that don’t allow some form of concealed-carry now.
Also on the minds and petition cards of the attendees was Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s recent ruling that the names of people who hold Firearms Owners Identification cards are public information under Illinois law.
“I don’t think that anyone needs to have that information,” said Lorraine Fidonik, 62, a paramedic from Addison. “I can’t see what good could come of it.”
The Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is in favor of keeping those names public.
“One of the things being lost in the debate is that it’s just a list of the names of people with FOID cards,” campaign director Mark Walsh said. “It allows some transparency and also allows the opportunity to make sure that there is a system is in place to follow up with law enforcement when people become on the prohibited purchasers list.”
Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.
Firearms Services Bureau carries out FOID law
By ANDY BROWNFIELD
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
SPRINGFIELD -- The Firearms Services Bureau of the Illinois State Police looks like a normal office, with tall beige dividers, motivational posters and personal knick-knacks, like plush monkeys, adorning the cubicles.
Lt. John Coffman, the bureau chief, said he doesn’t know whether Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s recent ruling that the names of Illinois Firearms Owners Identification cards are public information would increase the office’s workload. The bureau already suffers from a staff shortage, he said.
The quiet office of 26 employees handles hundreds of thousands of FOID card applications yearly. It also performs background checks and feeds FBI databases.
Coffman wouldn’t comment otherwise on Madigan’s decision, except to say a list of FOID card owners wouldn’t necessarily equate to a list of gun owners, because Illinois doesn’t register guns themselves.
“Recently, we’ve been processing about 25,000 applications a month,” Coffman said. “The last three years have been the three busiest years in the 43 to 44 years history of the bureau.”
The heaviest year on record was 2009, when the office handled more than 326,000 applications. Coffman said 230,000 a year is more typical. He attributes the surge to a recent law extending the validity of the card from five to 10 years, as well as national political debate over gun control and the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned Chicago’s handgun ban.
Most of the applications in any given year are renewals, Coffman said. The busiest period is between August and February, when people are renewing their cards for hunting season.
In that busy year of 2009, only 10,222 of the 320,000 applications were denied and 5,952 revoked.
One of the primary public safety tasks of the bureau is to make sure nobody gets a FOID card who shouldn’t, Coffman said.
“Those folks that are in our FOID database are reviewed hourly for recent criminal history and events,” he said. “It’s almost a real-time public safety function that allows us to identify those folks who probably shouldn’t have a gun.”
If criminal activity pops up, state police can work with local police to have the person’s card revoked and any guns he or she owns taken out of the person’s possession within a day.
If it is necessary to remove a gun, police don’t confiscate it. Instead, they arrange for another qualified owner, such as a family member, to take possession of the firearm.
An event such as an arrest warrant or order of protection can land a cardholder on a medium-risk list, but activity that demonstrates immediate danger to the gun owner or another person, such as calls regarding domestic violence, is considered high-risk. That merits immediate action, Coffman said.
-- Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.
Some other states disclose gun permit information
SPRINGFIELD -- On March 1, Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled that the names of Illinois gun permit holders are public information and should be made available if requested under the state Freedom of Information Act.
Twenty-five other states either explicitly say information on gun permits or concealed-carry licenses is public or do not specifically address the matter, meaning the records are presumed open.
Iowa is the only state that borders Illinois that has open gun records. That provision dates back to 1978, according to Sam Knowles of the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
“There’s been no controversy over the years,” Knowles said. “It doesn’t seem to have been that big an issue in Iowa.”
There was some pushback when several newspapers published lists of people who had been issued concealed-carry permits, Knowles said. The records were kept by the county sheriffs that issued the permits and were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The gun lobby was certainly not happy,” he said.
Illinois’ gun lobby has similar concerns.
“Our names are not for public consumption just because some do-gooder in the news media thinks they are,” National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said before a crowd at the Thursday’s Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day. “Our privacy trumps your First Amendment.”
-- Andy Brownfield
“I support the Second Amendment. You are your own protector of yourself – not the police, not the federal government, you’re supposed to learn to take care of yourself in this life, that’s what your momma told you.”
-- Joel Gain, 74, Petersburg.
“I think that (Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s ruling that names of FOID card holders be made public) basically is a way for criminals to actually exploit our own system against us. Armed citizens tend to be a little more polite to each other.”
-- Jeff Motler, 45, Springfield.
“We’ve already banned assault weapons. I think what most people consider assault weapons are not really assault weapons. Tools geared toward the military, which are fully automatic, are not available to the public anyway.”
-- Lorraine Fidonik, 62, Addison.
“Gun ownership is not only a constitutional right, it’s a human right, it’s a part of the autonomy of a free citizen so we are not completely dependent on the authorities for our safety and our freedom.”
-- John Sutton, 59, Chicago.
“Approach this with common sense. Approach this from the standpoint of doing the right thing for people throughout the state. I know geographically there’s a difference of opinion, but I would ask those people who maybe have traditionally been a little closed-minded about this to look at the broader picture.”
-- Arl Aten, who said he is in his 60s, Sumner.
“I believe that I should be able to protect myself and my children from criminals that are attacking us, whether it be at home or whether it be out at McDonald’s eating.”
-- Cindy Courson, 35, Danville, who attended with her three children, ages 4, 3 and 2.
A sampling of major gun-related legislation in the General Assembly
-- House Bill 7 would bar disclosure of the names of Firearms Owner Identification cards except to law enforcement authorities.
-- House Bill 148 would allow registered Illinois gun owners to carry concealed firearms if they pass criminal background and mental health checks and undergo eight hours of training.
-- House Bill 203 would limit Illinoisans to one handgun purchase per 30-day period.
-- House Bill 1274 would impose an additional 2 percent sales tax on ammunition.
-- House Bill 1294 would outlaw assault weapons and ammunition, high-capacity ammunition feeders, and .50 caliber rifles and bullets.
-- House Bill 1296 would require all handgun sales, including those between private citizens, to take place at the premises of a federally licensed dealer, who would be required to submit a background check on the purchaser.
-- House Bill 1906 would require all handgun dealers to be licensed with the state.
-- Senate Bill 77 would allow military reenactors to possess vintage rifles or modern reproductions, the short barrels of which violate current state law.