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Editorial: Extremes dominate gun law debate

February 17, 2012 at 08:44 AM

The State Journal-Register

It’s a fundamental rule of gun law physics in Illinois: For every threatened action, there will be an even more extreme reaction.

The latest equation began with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for a statewide handgun registry in which lawful gun owners would be charged $65 to register each handgun they own. The registrations would require renewal every five years.

In response, Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, is sponsoring a bill that would do away entirely with the state’s Firearm Owner’s Identification Act, under which lawful gun owners receive identification cards and the Illinois State Police maintain a database of licensed firearm owners.

Let the tug-of-war begin.

In proposing his handgun registry, Emanuel is accepting the gun-control baton that for more than two decades was carried by his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley. The greatest defeat for Chicago gun-control efforts came in June 2010, when the United States Supreme Court overturned the city’s ban on handguns.

To us, the McDonald v. Chicago decision clearly represented a harbinger of things to come in any future gun legislation, especially concerning Chicago’s ability to constrain the legal right of qualified citizens to own handguns. Really, the McDonald decision should have forced the leaders of Chicago to confront the most glaring flaw in Chicago’s handgun ban: Given the high rate of gun violence in Chicago, did anyone believe the ban was working?

Our opposition to Emanuel’s gun registry proposal is grounded in that question. From our perspective, Chicago should have learned by now that the way to reduce gun crime committed by criminals — who generally don’t have FOID cards and circumvent the background check process in obtaining their weapons — should not involve placing greater financial and bureaucratic burdens (or an outright ban) on those who follow gun laws.

Realistically, we viewed Emanuel’s proposal as dead on arrival in the General Assembly. No downstate lawmaker of either party is likely to back this kind of bill at a time when the push for a concealed-carry bill has never enjoyed stronger support. (In the time since the McDonald decision, Wisconsin has passed a concealed-carry law, leaving Illinois as the lone state without any provision for concealed carry of handguns.) Even many suburban Republicans would sooner support concealed carry than more Second Amendment restriction for Chicago.

Which brings us to McCann’s proposal to throw out the entire FOID system, which, McCann believes, “just punishes the law-abiding public.” We’ve never viewed filling out an application as “punishment.” And we believe the Illinois State Police database of FOID cardholders is a sensible means of maintaining some awareness of who owns guns. It’s hardly perfect, of course, but no system is. There’s a reason why the words “well regulated” appear in the Second Amendment, and the FOID system is a relatively unobtrusive part of that regulation.

These two extremes need not dictate gun legislation in Illinois, but that’s generally how it goes. In the wake of McDonald and amid mounting pressure for concealed carry, elected officials in Springfield and Chicago need to change their traditional, confrontational approaches to this most emotional of issues.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I can definitely see where it is an extreme to make me register every handgun I own and charge me high fees for each one. I cannot, however see where it is extreme to do away with the FOID card. The other states in the US seem to be able to function quite well without imposing the FOID burden on their citizens…......... are IL. residents any different? The premise of this editorial of extremes on both sides is flawed, when the reality of the myriad of Illinois and Chicago gun laws already have made Illinois at the extreme end of the gun control and regulation spectrum. To begin to chip away at any of the pile of oppressive regulations on gun ownership is not extreme, it is overdue.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/17 at 09:26 AM

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