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Guest View: Brown decision could undo legal basis for Illinois’ FOID card law
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Guest View: Brown decision could undo legal basis for Illinois’ FOID card law

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Richard Pearson

Richard Pearson

The FOID card has long been the bane of 2nd Amendment advocates in Illinois because it is often used as a bludgeon to punish honest citizens. The FOID card is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that robs honest citizens of their time and money. 

A person can have a FOID card revoked for a variety of reasons. Many people have had their FOID card revoked for simply moving out of the state and there are many people who have a FOID card but have never owned a firearm. A 2019 Chicago Tribune analysis of people whose FOID cards were revoked revealed there was virtually no follow up on 78 percent of FOID card revocations, which begs the question what is the point of the FOID card?

 This is the question Vivian Brown has been asking since 2017 when she was arrested for violating the FOID Act after her estranged husband called the police claiming that she had a gun inside her home.

While there was no evidence that a gun had been fired, the officers found a .22-caliber single-shot, bolt-action rifle in her bedroom. She said the gun was for protection. She was over 21 and because she had no criminal record or history of mental illnesses and she wanted to challenge her arrest for not possessing a FOID card. If she had applied for one – she would have been eligible to receive one.

Brown could not afford to take this issue to court and so the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation stepped in and took the issue to court and in 2018, a judge in White County sided with Brown and ruled the FOID card unconstitutional.

The Illinois Supreme Court kicked the case back to the trial court citing issues with the methodology used in the decision and so last April White County Judge T. Scott Webb issued a ruling in which he dismissed the charges against Brown and ruled the FOID card law was unconstitutional, saying it makes the Second Amendment a “facade,” turning a right into a privilege.

Webb noted that the “FOID Card Act does not ban possession of a gun in an individual’s own home for self-defense. It merely requires that an individual obtain a license before to do so…The Court finds this assertion is a distinction without a difference. Without the license, it is unlawful to possess such a firearm inside one's home. Thus, it has the same ultimate effect as an outright ban. It just gets to the same end by different means.”

Webb went on to say, “If the right to bear arms and self-defense are truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights, especially within the confines and privacy of their own homes. A citizen’s Second Amendment rights should not be treated in the same manner as a driver’s license.”

Judge Webb’s ruling has the potential to finally knock out Illinois’ arcane FOID card for good. The Second Amendment is a right – not a privilege. Driving a car is a privilege and the government has the right to demand people complete an exam and a driver’s test to legally drive. Government does not have the Constitutional authority to treat a right like a privilege.

The Second Amendment is a basic right of Americans. The FOID Act is intrusive and unnecessary. The whole reason the Illinois State Rifle Association got involved in the Brown case was because an honest, law abiding citizen was arrested for not having a FOID card when thousands of people have had their FOID cards revoked for domestic violence and other crimes and nearly 80 percent of them are still in possession of firearms. 

The intent of the FOID Act is to get guns out of the hands of criminals but the net effect of the law is to punish law abiding citizens.

Judge Webb is absolutely correct in his assessment. The FOID card does make the 2nd Amendment a façade. Hopefully, the Illinois Supreme Court will also recognize the absurdity and unconstitutionality of Illinois’ FOID Act.

Richard Pearson is the Illinois State Rifle Association Director.

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