SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — A circuit court judge ruled on Tuesday that part of the Firearm Owners’ Identification Card requirement in Illinois state law “goes too far” and “makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens who are attempting to protect their lives within their own homes.”
It’s unclear if the ruling would be relevant for anyone other than the woman, Vivian Brown, who began arguing this case four years ago.
In 2017, White County sheriff’s deputies found a rifle inside the then-21-year-old woman’s home in Carmi, Illinois. Prosecutors pressed charges for Possession of a Firearm without Requisite Firearm Owner’s I.D. Card, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
“Self-defense within one’s home should be honored and revered as nowhere else on Earth,” White County Resident Circuit Judge T. Scott Webb wrote in the court’s opinion.
Illinois state law requires citizens to pay a $10 fee and take a photo for the FOID card, which residents need to have to buy a gun. The law says a person must have the card “on their person” at any time they have the firearm. Brown’s lawyers have argued that is an unreasonable expectation in someone’s home.
Conservatives and gun advocates celebrated the ruling.
“I’m happy about the court’s ruling,” Republican state senator Terri Bryant said on Wednesday. “I hope that the courts continue to uphold the fact that FOID is unconstitutional and totally wipe out the FOID card.”
Richard Pearson with the Illinois State Rifle Association sees the ruling as a chance to roll back the state’s FOID card regulations permanently.
“This is a constitutional case, so it skips by the appellate court and goes right to the Supreme Court,” Pearson said in a phone call.
“If we get an unfavorable ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court, it still could go to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said, describing the legal appeal process as “long and expensive,” but assured, “we’ll do it.”
In the meantime, Pearson anticipated the court ruling could impact how lawmakers plan to alter the FOID card and state gun laws. A number of proposals filed in the state legislature would expand the regulatory reach of the current FOID card.
“We did concealed carry in 2014, I think, but it was as a result of a judge’s opinions,” Rep. Mike Zalewski (D) said. “This may have the same effect.”
“Ever since we’ve done concealed carry, it’s been hard for us as lawmakers, and I think the general public, to reconcile what the FOID card is and what purpose it serves,” he said.
Because the court ruling centered around the privacy of possessing a gun inside a home, Zalewski suggested an alternative to the FOID card where the licensure process could somehow be combined with the concealed carry license, which the court did not consider unconstitutional.
“My personal opinion is it has always made sense to unify the license,” he said. “If you want to have a firearm, you get one aspect of the license; if you want to carry the firearm, you get another aspect of the license.”
The Pritzker administration and the Illinois State Police support a proposal from State Senator Dave Koehler (D) to encourage FOID card holders to register their fingerprints with the state in exchange for a faster renewal process.
State Senator Ram Villivalam (D) wants to require FOID card holders to register their fingerprints with state police. His proposal would also double the cost of the card.
“Our number one responsibility, in my opinion here, is to improve the safety of our residents, and ensure that we’re also addressing the public health crisis that gun violence has created,” Villivalam said.
Roughly one out of every three concealed carry holders voluntarily register their fingerprints with the state in exchange for faster processing, according to Villivalam.
“The FOID card system does work,” he said. “We just need to make sure that the Illinois State Police has the authority and the resources it needs to ensure the full effect of it.”
“Law enforcement has clearly stated that having fingerprints, having universal background checks, having a FOID card system, is what helps reduce gun violence in our state,” he said.
Villivalam’s bill to ‘Fix the FOID’ has 28 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, but requires approval from a Senate committee before it could be heard for a vote on the floor. Koehler’s bill to encourage FOID card holders to register their fingerprints with the state has nine co-sponsors, but also has not cleared out of a committee.