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Lisa Madigan Wants FOID Lists

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 2, 2011 2:35PM

To own a firearm in Illinois, you have to have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID). According to the Illinois State Police, "the FOID card is required for any resident of Illinois to possess or purchase firearms. During the FOID application process, the applicant’s identification and background information is checked. Individuals with prohibiting factors are disallowed from obtaining a FOID card." Last year the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting the names of all FOID card holders in the state, and their expiration dates. The state police, however, don't want to release the information.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has determined that state police must release the names of people authorized to carry a FOID card, according to a letter issued by her office's public access counselor. "The General Assembly has clearly determined that it is in the public interest to provide a system for identifying those who are qualified to acquire or possess firearms through the issuance of FOID cards," assistant public access counselor Matthew Rogina wrote, the Tribune is reporting. "The public, therefore, has a legitimate interest in ISP's enforcement of the FOID card act."

A lawyer for the state police, however, says that the ISP intends to ask a judge to rule on the matter. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have gotten into the act as well, drafting legislation prohibiting the release of such information. "You can own a handgun, and information about whether you do or don't is private information," Greenville Republican Representative Ron Stephens said. "There is no reason for anyone or any government agency to make available to you or anyone else whether I have a FOID card."

Proponents of releasing the information argue that it's a public policy issue. "There should be public scrutiny on any licensing system, whether it's to own or to buy or to carry," Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence told the Tribune. "The public has a right to know how well those systems are working, especially when it involves firearms." But opponents of releasing the information, such as Todd Vandermyde, Illinois lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, think that if people know who has a card who doesn't, those who own and don't own firearms alike will become targets. "You potentially make us targets," Vandermyde told the Tribune. "Or, on the inverse, you could say, 'These are the homes that don't have FOID cards so it's likely they don't have guns, so therefore they make better targets.'"