The list of owners and the expiration date of their Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards are considered public records since they are in the possession of the state police (a public agency), and thus fall under FOIA’s jurisdiction. This would make that information, accessible to the public upon request. However, FOIA contains an exception if the release of the information would cause severe physical risk.
As of Wednesday, GOP Rep. Aaron Schock had yet to hear from the person who initially ordered the release of the information, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Schock spearheaded a letter to Madigan last week signed by a 12-member bipartisan coalition of U.S. representatives from Illinois. The letter asked that she revoke her order to Illinois state police to release the gun owners’ identities after the police had initially denied the reporter’s request. As of yet, Schock’s office has received no response from the attorney general, although they confirmed any contact sent through snail mail could still be in transit.
Madigan’s office said they have reached out to people who have contacted their office on the matter, which they say is strictly one of what can be released under FOIA, not one of gun control.
The coalition of Illinois representatives sees it differently.
The letter to Madigan goes over some of the worst consequences of having the information of FOID cardholders made public: criminals may choose to rob FOID homes to steal firearms that they can’t get legally, and it could encourage more people, in the interest of privacy, to forego the legal route of getting a FOID card “because they do not want to be on a criminals’ shopping list.” It also puts up as easy targets those homes without a firearm.
“This could be comparable to the State releasing a list of everyone who does not have an alarm system in their home,” the letter says, adding later, “Publically releasing the personal information of gun owners seems more like an intimidation tactic to discourage the lawful ownership of firearms than a way to serve the public interest.”
Right now, Schock is hoping the issue will be able to be handled locally in Illinois, but he’s willing to take it to the federal level if necessary.
“If we need to, we absolutely would pursue law at the federal level,” he said.