First gun registry hearing raises more questions from Illinois gun owners

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(The Center Square) – Gun owners have more questions about the state’s gun ban and registry after the first public hearing hosted by Illinois State Police to get feedback on the rules.

As part of the law banning more than 170 semi-automatic firearms enacted on Jan. 10 in Illinois, those who previously owned the now banned guns must register them. The registry opened Oct. 1. The deadline is Jan. 1.

Of the 2.4 million Firearm Owners ID card holders in the state, just 2,400 have registered in the first month. At an unrelated event in Lake Forest Thursday, Pritzker downplayed the 0.1% registration rate as a “right wing” talking point.

“We expect there to be more and more people as we get closer to the deadline, which is the end of the year to do so and people who don’t, obviously at some point, they will be breaking the law,” Pritzker said.

Asked whether the banned firearms are in common use, Pritzker said “they’re not that common.” That issue is in question as part of the federal litigation against the law pending in the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Springfield resident Jim Helm, who attended the first hearing about the registry with ISP Thursday in Springfield, said he hopes the law gets struck down. The hearing didn’t provide much clarity on the mounting questions, he said.

“Most of the people here were looking for simple answers to their questions and going back and simply referring to the law itself, it would have been nice if they had been a little bit more prepared on some of the specifics,” Helm told The Center Square. “They did on some, but not on all.”

Questions ranged from what types of hunting firearms are considered banned, what happens to individuals found out of compliance with the registry, and what happens if the law is struck down by the courts.

“I don’t believe those things will be up for the Illinois State Police to decide. I think that that will be up to the state’s attorneys and the courts of the various counties throughout the state of Illinois,” said Suzanne Bond, ISP special council, during Thursday’s public hearing.

Testifying at the hearing, state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, asked if the registry would be destroyed if the law is found unconstitutional.

“I can’t answer that. I don’t know the answer to that,” Bond said. “I would assume that if the law is ruled unconstitutional, we would be directed by a court on how to handle that.”

Illinois State Police say they hope to have specific questions about the state’s gun ban registry answered before the next Joint Committee on Administrative Rules hearing in December.

“We are in receipt of questions from JCAR and we are also in receipt of questions coming in through our public comment portal, and we are going to endeavor to have answers to those questions before the JCAR December meeting,” Bond said.

ISP said on its website that additional public comments not provided at the hearings must be submitted and received by Nov. 20, by regular mail or by email.

“Hopefully that will be possible, if not, then it will definitely be in January, but our goal is to answer them by December,” Bond said.

The deadline to register banned firearms, attachments and ammunition or face criminal penalties is Jan. 1.

Many of the questions asked Thursday had ISP referring people back to the rules. State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, said that’s not helpful.

“The reason people were there asking these questions, because when they go to the website, they’re confused on what the answers ought to be, and so I think they’re looking for specific answers, and they’re not going to get that here,” Rosenthal told The Center Square.

Thursday at an unrelated event in Lake Forest, state Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, who helped craft the law, spoke to the low compliance rate after the first 30 days of disclosures. He said people are likely waiting for the outcome in federal court, but expects the rate to increase.

“I do think this is a function of cramming for the test that people will wait to the last minute, we’ll see,” Morgan said. “I also expect that number to increase as people recognize that they want to be law-abiding citizens and they want to be consistent with state law and they will register their existing legacy weapons, otherwise they’re risking their FOID card. And I think the vast, vast majority of people are just committed to being law-abiding citizens the way they are now.”

The next public hearing is Friday morning in Chicago. The third and final hearing will be in Caseyville Monday morning.

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