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Madison County state’s attorney urges Illinois Supreme Court to overturn FOID law Republican state senator discusses her views on Illinois' FOID bill


Charlie T Waite

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State Sen. Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro and gun rights advocate, said her office continues to field multiple complaints from constituents daily. By Belleville News-Democrat

Madison County’s top prosecutor filed a brief Monday urging the Illinois Supreme Court to find the state’s FOID law unconstitutional, a decision one gun control advocate said would be “short-sighted.”

Illinoisans must have a Firearm Owners Identification card to legally own guns, but Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine, a first-term Republican, said the law violates the Second Amendment and should be struck down.

“Even in your own home you have to ask permission from the state to possess a gun or it’s a criminal violation,” Haine said. “That reaches right into the core of Second Amendment rights.”

The state Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case of Vivian Brown, an Illinois woman who challenged the gun law after she was charged in 2017 with owning an unlicensed rifle. She was eligible and required to have a FOID card at the time but didn’t.

The law also allows law enforcement to deny or revoke cards to people convicted of felonies or violent offenses such as domestic violence, assault or battery.

Haine said he decided to file a document known as an amicus brief supporting Brown because the city of Chicago and Cook County all had filed briefs supporting FOID.

“We wanted to make clear where Madison County stood,” Haine said.

While Chicago and Cook County argued in their briefs that the FOID law prevents gun violence, it doesn’t have the same effect in Madison County, the state’s attorney said. The Madison County state’s attorneys office has prosecuted 200 violations of the law since 2016, of which only a third resulted in convictions, according to the brief. The office prosecuted more than 20,000 felonies in general duringqw that same time.

The court’s decision in this case could do away with FOID for good, Haine said. Eliminating the gun control measure could put public safety at risk, said Trish Oberweis, a criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

“The rationale for the FOID law is to ensure that there’s some minimum safety standard and ensure we can keep guns out of the hands of people who for one reason or another ought not to have them,” Oberweis said.

Tracking gun ownership through a database of firearm owners also helps police investigate gun trafficking, she added. But having their names on a government database causes “deep angst” among gun rights advocates who fear “a lack of secrecy.” Haine’s actions, Oberweis said, reflect that fear.

“A step like that is fairly alarmist and not related to any real risk,” Oberweis said. “It’s short-sighted at best and presumably no more than political posturing.”

Haine said he is merely making good on promises he made during his 2019 and 2020 campaign.

“This is simply promises made promises kept,” Haine said. “To me, this is nonpolitical. ... I wanted to make sure our pro-Second Amendment, anti-FOID views are adequately and loudly heard before they make a decision in this case.”

It’s not known when the court will hear oral arguments in the case.

This story was originally published November 9, 2021 5:00 AM.

For the second time, a county judge in southern Illinois has ruled the state’s Firearm Owner Identification Card law unconstitutional, as applied to one state resident, Vivian Brown. The ruling from Judge T. Scott Webb means the Illinois Supreme Court will, also for the second time, be in a position to decide whether to strike down the FOID card law as unconstitutional. Capitol News Illinois file photo

Kelsey Landis is an Illinois state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat. She joined the newsroom in January 2020 after her first stint at the paper from 2016 to 2018. She graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2010 and earned a master’s from DePaul University in 2014. Landis previously worked at The Alton Telegraph. At the BND, she focuses on informing you about what your lawmakers are doing in Springfield and Washington, D.C., and she works to hold them accountable. Landis has won Illinois Press Association awards for her work, including the Freedom of Information Award.

https://www.bnd.com/news/politics-government/article255643736.html

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