Proud, Safe Gun Owners Not Proud or Safe When Names Released

ChicagoOwning firearms is supposed to make you safe. Except when it doesn’t.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s ruling last week that the names of the 1.3 million people with Firearm Owners Identification cards (FOID) in the state is public information has gun owners up in arms, pun intended.

The same groups that declare no one would put a sign in front of their home saying NO GUN now fear the opposite. They’re no longer worried about their right to bear arms, they’re worried about their right to bear arms anonymously. Their right to privacy.

1,000 to 1,500 gun owners converged on the Statehouse this week in Springfield to oppose the decision and push for conceal and carry laws. In Peoria, Circuit Judge Scott Shore halted disclosure with a temporary restraining order. And in a related privacy concern, Amish Illinois residents lobbied their state representatives and law enforcement officers to keep their photos off their FOID cards after former Illinois State Police Director Jonathon Monken said the policy would be reversed.

The Illinois State Police’s Firearms Services Bureau conducts background checks and updates FBI databases on the 230,000 gun owner applications it receives a year. That amount rose to 326,000 in 2009 says bureau chief Lt. John Coffman which he attributes to last year’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Chicago’s handgun ban and extension of the card’s validity to 10 years, reports the State Journal-Register.

In 2005 Illinois State Police procedures were also under scrutiny when an employee with guns in his truck at the agency’s training academy shot his girlfriend and himself says the Chicago Tribune. A state police firearms official said the agency could have confiscated the man’s weapons but didn’t in a different court case.

Two years ago a similar name disclosure flap occurred when the Memphis Commercial Appeal decided to publish a searchable base of state firearm permit holders, despite gun owner identity protection laws in states like Florida, Ohio and South Dakota that sealed names. The Appeal found that 70 of 154 state permit holders had criminal records including Bernard Avery (arrested 25 times with a murder charge dismissed on mental competency) and Reginald Miller (a felon with 11 arrests). Oops!

Chris Cox, then executive director of Illinois’ NRA, wrote the Appeal after the disclosures and called the decision “dangerous” — as if gun safety advocates and employers were armed instead of gun-owners. Hello?

Even though 25 other states call gun owner information public or do not specifically call it private, pro-gun Illinois politicians say the public has no right to the information and have introduced counter legislation to Madigan’s ruling. The Illinois State Police has also refused to release the information, which it has held confidential for forty years, in defiance of Madigan’s ruling and a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press.

Pro-disclosure and gun safety activists, on the other hand, say knowing whether a neighbor, daycare worker or the kid sitting next to your son or daughter at community college is armed is very much their business. Especially since 10,222  firearm  applications the Illinois State Police received in 2009 were denied and 5,952 were outright revoked.

Though the firearm owner information which Madigan wants to release would not include addresses, phone numbers or photos, gun activists worry they will be harassed in their community, by gun control activists or by anti-gun employers. They also worry that criminals will break into their houses and steal their weapons.

In fact, gun activists are so worried about others knowing they’re armed, you have to wonder if the weapons make them safe — or unsafe. And if they need to buy more weapons to defend their weapons.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Martha.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on March 14th, 2011 at 1:04pm #

    Why not not make it mandatory that owners of high priced electronics equipment be made public? Or who own jewelry or precious metals. Or make it public who uses which gynecologist? Or psychologist? Better yet, make people who buy tobacco products list their names publicly? Why not have a public list of everyone’s children’s schools made public?

    Once one crosses the line and deprives one group of their rights, it’s only a small step to deprive another group of their rights. In fact, these kind of laws are usually employed to do just that. The fascists/ziofascists worked in employment drug testing on “safety grounds” and stipulated it was to be limited to special cases. Well guess what, it’s no almost universal in the usa that job applicants are forced to take a drug test to get a job.

    This article is stinks.

  2. hayate said on March 14th, 2011 at 1:05pm #


    “Well guess what, it’s no almost universal in the usa that job applicants are forced to take a drug test to get a job.”

    Should have been:

    Well guess what, it’s now almost universal in the usa that job applicants are forced to take a drug test to get a job.

  3. Deadbeat said on March 15th, 2011 at 11:52am #

    I totally agree with hayate. This article reminds me of so-called progressive and Liberals demanding the weakening of jury rules after the OJ verdict. Gun owners have the right to privacy just like I have a right to own a gun and choose not to. IMO an armed populous is a populous that can fight back. This Liberal notion of disarming the populous in a Capitalist system illustrates yet another contradiction of Liberals and progressive. If Liberal truly want to disarm the populous then they MUST also advocate the elimination of Capitalism and Zionism.

  4. joed said on March 15th, 2011 at 3:04pm #

    There’s a lot of gun nuts out there. But, most gun owners are regular people who enjoy the sport of shooting, reloading ammo, hunting–sometimes even for food.
    The gun nuts are going to do their thing regardless. The law abiding gun owner will continue sporting.
    Seems, unreasonable to make public the names of gun owners. If addresses are obtainted then burglary/theft could occur at more than random rates.
    Making public these name is not reasonable