Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is gun ownership a public issue?

I wish the ideologues would make up their minds, when it comes to the new “hot-button” issue in Illinois over whether the list of people who have permits to legally own firearms ought to be public information.
MADIGAN: Making names public

Personally, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be. But it doesn’t surprise me that it isn’t, and under typical conditions, I’d be inclined to find other issues to comment on – figuring there are more important things in my life to worry about.

YET IT IS a contradiction in the arguments I have heard all week that makes me now want to chime in. Supposedly, the reason why it is bad policy to make the list of legal gun owners public is that the “criminals” will now have a checklist of which homes to hit so they can steal guns.

Or, is it that the criminals will now have a checklist of which homes to avoid because the owners could be upset enough to shoot them. The would-be burglars will focus their attention on the rest of us.

Make up your mind people, which is it?

Personally, I don’t think it would play much of a factor in a thief’s decision where to hit. Most of them go for convenience and take whatever is in front of them at the moment they get the urge to steal. No state-sanctioned list is going to play that much of a role in the decision.

IN CERTAIN CIRCLES, this issue has been ongoing for some time now. There are various groups that have been trying to get the Illinois State Police to release their records of who has been issued Firearm Ownership Identification Cards.

The state police, being like other police, are taking a cantankerous attitude, figuring they’re not releasing nothing unless they have some explicit court order telling them they have no choice but to make the information public. That is a law enforcement mentality on so many issues that it doesn’t phase me much anymore.

Which is why law enforcement-types are now upset that the Illinois attorney general’s office is getting into the mix. Because their actions of late are a step toward that court order telling them that this list of gun owners is something they don’t have any business keeping private.

Specifically, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan had her staff issue a legal opinion on this issue. In and of itself, this is not unusual. The attorney general’s office issues legal opinions all the time on various issues, and they are taken as her opinion only.

SOMETIMES, THEY INFLUENCE the way the courts ultimately rule. Other times, they get ignored.
DILLARD: Can he win this fight?

This one is not going to get ignored. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale (the guy that the Bill Brady backers were convinced was way too liberal to be Illinois governor) is now sponsoring a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that explicitly makes the gun ownership list private information. Activists plan to turn out in force on Thursday at the Statehouse in Springfield to muscle their own view into prominence.

If the Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn were to go along, it would have the effect of nullifying any legal opinion that Madigan’s staff might have. Of course, I take some relief in the fact that I know how ornery and disagreeable our legislators can be, and that it is a long-shot that Dillard’s bill will become law anytime soon.

Now in what some think was her gesture of compromise, the opinion written in the name of Madigan says that only the names (and no other personal information) of gun owners would be public.

OF COURSE, TRYING to craft a compromise on this issue is as ridiculous as anyone who thinks Quinn can find a way to please everybody with regards to the bill he is considering to abolish capital punishment in Illinois (within 13 days, we’ll learn whether the governor has enough backbone to sign it, but that is a commentary for another day).

The people with rifles and pistols, some of whom are just a little too eager to find an excuse to shoot another human being for me to be comfortable around them, are going to start behaving like the late Charlton Heston waving around that musket at a National Rifle Association gathering.

I’ve always been skeptical of the idea of people truly using that pistol to defend themselves, because I can easily envision so many circumstances where something goes wrong and they wind up shooting themselves – with the would-be burglar getting yet another “item” for his booty.

So I just don’t see some “noble” reason why this information collected by the state ought to be kept private, particularly if the real key data of street addresses or specific types of firearms owned won’t be part of the record.

I KNOW SOME people will disagree with this statement, but I have always viewed the ability to own and use a firearm as being comparable to being able to own and drive an automobile. We don’t have any problem with licensing drivers, and penalizing them severely if their driving gets reckless and someone gets hurt.

To my knowledge, the state doesn’t hesitate in providing information about us gathered from our driver’s licenses to certain entities. So I really can’t comprehend how this is any different, just because some people want to have delusions of rural hunters living off the land in a state that is two-thirds Chicago-area, with just over half of the people of the state living in a suburban environment.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Differing opinions on this issue? Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass on Friday came out in opposition to publicly identifying firearms owners (while also telling us about his own hunting experiences), while the Chicago Sun-Times this week threw the muscle of its scrawny 60-page newspapers in support of Madigan in taking an official editorial stance to make the names public.

No comments: