IL: Lawmakers: FOID info is confidential

Springfield – Hunters and gun supporters in the state continue
to make progress against a recent decision to release names and
other information belonging to Illinoisans who hold Firearm Owner
Identification cards.

The latest blow against Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s plan came
in the form of a letter signed by 12 of Illinois’ 19 members of the
U.S. House of Representatives.

The March 10 letter cites the long-standing tradition of keeping
FOID data confidential and justifies continuing to do so out of
concern for the safety and security of persons who hold FOID cards.
The letter also expresses confidence in the Illinois State Police
and the agency’s ability to enforce the FOID requirement without
help from outside sources.

Meanwhile, the Illinois State Rifle Association secured a temporary
restraining order against the Illinois State Police which prohibits
release of information from the FOID database until a full hearing
may be held.

A Peoria County judge will hear arguments next month about the
temporary restraining order blocking the release of the
names.

“Law-abiding Illinois firearm owners certainly appreciate the
support offered by our U.S. representatives,” ISRA Executive
Director Richard Pearson said. “I think it’s important to note that
the representatives agree that there is no legitimate reason for
anyone outside of law enforcement to have access to the FOID
database.”

Todd Vandermyde, with the National Rifle Association, said he
believes the Illiois State Police is in compliance with state
issuance statutes but a top to bottom audit of the system will help
determine that.

And lawmakers have publicly said that the privacy bill has
overwhelming bi-partisan support.

At a brief hearing March 15, the ISRA, the Illinois State Police
and The Associated Press agreed to a delay of the review of the
restraining order until April 14. The suit pending in Peoria County
court was brought this month by four Peoria-area members of the
ISRA. They contend releasing the names would cause “irreparable
damage.”

The review allows the state time to hire a private attorney to
represent the state police. The Illinois State Police, maintaining
that such disclosure is an unwarranted invasion of privacy, are
preparing a possible court challenge.

Another issue could be whether the case is heard in Peoria at all,
given that a Freedom of Information request sparked the potential
release of names. ISRA Attorney Stanley Tucker, of Carthage, said
he would oppose a move, noting that two members are from Peoria
County.

Regardless of where the hearing is held, “The ISRA is prepared to
push relentlessly forward in our efforts to protect firearm owner
privacy,” said Pearson. “We’re prepared to sue anyone who stands in
our way. The safety and security of law-abiding citizens will not
be subordinated by claims that the public somehow has the right to
know who is exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear
arms.”

Pearson’s argument is that supporters of Madigan’s ruling claim
that the public needs to know who holds FOID cards so that the
performance of the Illinois State Police in managing the FOID
program may be evaluated.

“Quite honestly, the state police have managed the FOID program
quite well over the years given their resource limitations,”
Pearson said.

The Peoria Journal Star contributed to this report

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