AG wants release of gun owners' names

March 2, 2011 2:46:46 PM PST
Should the names of registered gun owners in Illinois be made public? That's the question being debated by the Illinois attorney general and state police.

To buy a gun in Illinois, first you must have an FOID card, short for firearm owners identification. Illinois state police had always kept cardholder names private, but this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said the public has a right to that information.

At Illinois Gun Works in Elmwood Park reaction was swift and mostly negative.

"I'm concerned about any information that's on the internet, particularly that I'm owning a firearm," said gun owner Paul McCarthy.

"It's never been anybody's business but the gun owners and the state police," said gun owner Michael LaRose. "There's no reason, no viable reason, for this to be done. It's a privacy issue."

Wednesday, Madigan defended her office's decision to uphold a Freedom of Information Act request that would effectively publicize the names of registered Illinois gun owners.

The request for names by the Associated Press had been rejected by Illinois State Police, which administers the FOID process.

"The federal and state courts that have looked at these issues have said when you apply for some form of a license, that that is public information," said Madigan.

The issue may end up in the courts or the state legislature. Illinois State Police has said it will ask a judge to decide the matter.

And, at least two Republican-sponsored bills in the General Assembly would specifically make FOID information private, citing public safety concerns.

"It is not good policy in the State of Illinois to release the names so that criminals have a heads up as to who may or may not have a firearm in their home to protect themselves," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, (R) Hinsdale.

"My fear is there will be people that will buy guns illegally figuring that, well, nobody will know I have it," said Illinois Gun Works owner Don Mastrianni.

Madigan says the information made public would be limited to name and card expiration date, no addresses, photos or Social Security numbers.

"It's alright with me as long as all my information is not on there, like Social Security card or my house information, nothing like that," said gun buyer Carlos Crespo. "As long as it's just my name and my expiration date, that's fine with me."

It could be some time before any names are released. Wednesday, one of the bills in the General Assembly that would make FOID information private stalled in a House committee. there is another bill, however, working its way through the State Senate.

There are about 1.3 million people in Illinois who have one of these cards.

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