No matter your stance on the right to gun ownership, most sane persons would agree that putting out a list of people who hold a firearm permit makes absolutely no sense.  If you believed, by some odd convoluted logic, that such a list would be a warning to a potential thief that entering your house might not be the wisest idea, it also warns the thief to be prepared to face a firearm.  Such a warning could result in the possible shoot-first-ask-questions-later scenario, where a family member not even carrying a firearm could be shot by an invader.  And what happens when you’re not home?  Such a list is a roadmap to which houses will likely yield a cache of valuable weapons.  Who would be stupid enough to release such a list to the public?

The sad answer is the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.  In her opinion, a request made by an Associated Press reporter under the Freedom of Information Act, requesting the names of all permit holders and information on weapons each is allowed to carry, dictates the release of the list.  The Illinois State Police are saying not so fast, and are refusing to comply with the Attorney General.

It is likely the stalemate will soon be a matter for the courts, however lawyers for the state police, who are entrusted with the information, believe that release of such information could potentially be a violation of privacy rights.

Republican Rep. Ron Stephens made a very valid point when he said, “You are by design also publishing a list of everyone who doesn’t” carry a firearm.  “My gun ownership is none of your business,” Stephens, who is pushing a bill in the General Assembly to lock down that list, told “I don’t know what Lisa Madigan doesn’t understand about that, but obviously she’s confused.”

Assistant Public Access Counselor Matthew Rogina, in response to state police’s concerns said, “releasing the information cannot be characterized as highly personal or objectionable.” He wrote that there is a “public interest” in releasing the information, citing the example of an individual who may have become ineligible to carry.   Therefore, even if disclosure of the names and expiration of the (Firearm Owner’s Identification Card) card owners did constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, this fact is outweighed by the public interest that exists in ensuring the integrity of the (police) database.”

It is the Illinois State Police’s responsibility to track the validity and expiration of firearm permits, not the general public.  Unless the state’s Attorney General’s office knows of specific instances where the state police have not done their job, the argument is specious at best. Since when does a Freedom of Information request include the release of personal information?   How would you feel if a reporter requested private information about you?  Perhaps you or a member of your family has seen a mental health professional, would you want such information made public?

Rep. Stephens is championing a bill that will prohibit such information from being released except in connection with a crime, however the first test of the bill failed in committee.  Stephens promises that he will bring it back up within the new few weeks.

National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said his group would do “whatever we can” to stop the attorney general decision from being enforced.  “There’s no reason for the names of law-abiding gun owners to be released to the general public.”

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