CHICAGO - State Senator Kwame Raoul's (D-Chicago) new law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms has another section that requires gun owners to check with the Illinois State Police (ISP) before privately transferring ownership of a firearm.
HB 1189, signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn last week, requires anyone preparing to sell or give away firearms to contact the ISP before the transaction takes place, and confirm whether the firearm recipient has a valid Fiream Owner's Identification Card (FOID) card.
Illinois' new law says State Police are required to develop an Internet-based system for individuals to determine the validity of a FOID card prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm, and that the system be completed and available for use by July 1, 2015.
Concerns are being raised now as to whether FOID card owners' privacy could be endangered if a person enters a query in the ISP's online database under the false pretense of transferring a firearm, and gathers instant private FOID card information that can be used for other purposes.
"Right now, licensed firearms dealers are required to check on a FOID card status before making the transaction," Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) told Illinois Review. "But with Senator Raoul's measure, could private information now be given out to anybody indicating they're transferring a firearm. Yes, that could happen. That bill never should have become law."
Righter bristled at considering California's law that requires all firearms sales - from licensed dealers or private transfers - go through a licensed dealer with a fee limit of $15. The dealers then check into the gun receivers' background, and the FOID card owners' privacy is more protected.
"That won't work either," Righter said.
Earlier this year, State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Burr Ridge) introduced and passed SB 27 banning the Illinois Attorney General from making public the list of FOID card owners. The urgency for the protection arose after a group in New York indicated the residence and location of the state's firearms owners public on an Internet website map.
But with the online FOID database query included in HB 1189, any FOID card owners' name will be accessible online and open to be made public.
That idea isn't setting well with Second Amendment advocates.
"What I imagine the intent of this bill, at least in [Cook County State's Attorney] Anita Alverez's eyes, is to prohibit the criminal element from obtaining weapons. So by reporting the gun stolen or lost, that will stop any illegal activity from occurring from that point forward," Roxane Tyssen of Tinley Park told Illinois Review. "And by way of the background checks, that will stop, or perhaps maybe even deter, people who can legally obtain firearms from buying and then passing them along to others for illicit activities."
But could this new law in fact flag anyone who buys weapons for their own use, collection or protection if they buy several guns at any given time? Tyssen asked.
"Did each legislator who voted yes (41 state Senators and 70 state Representatives) give any thought to this? I would bet that they did not," she said.
UPDATE: The Republican Senate Caucus spokesperson Patty Schuh said the FOID card system now in place is number-based, not name-based. So if a person were to go to the online ISP database to check on whether the firearm receiver's FOID card is valid, the person would need to enter the receiver's FOID card number - something only the card owner would have. With the need for numbers, it would be more difficult to obtain information and encroach on the FOID card owners' privacy.
However, the question as to what private owners will do before transactions between January 1, 2014 - when HB 1189 goes into effect - and July 1, 2015 - 18 months later - is unknown.
The Illinois State Rifle Association failed to return a call for comment.