Illinois Governor Continues to Downplay Defiance of Gun Registration Mandate – Bearing Arms

Illinois Governor Continues to Downplay Defiance of Gun Registration Mandate – Bearing Arms

When the Illinois State Police made its first report on the anemic number of firearms and accessories registered with the agency ahead of a January 1 deadline, Gov. J.B. Pritzker dismissed the paltry figures and claimed that as the deadline approached we’d see widespread compliance. He repeated that assertion in late December, just days before the deadline took effect, but as of December 31st the ISP reported 29,357 individuals had complied with the mandate. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a little more than one percent of all Firearm Owner ID cardholders in the state.

Now that we’re nearly three weeks past the deadline, it’s pretty clear that noncompliance is widespread, but Pritzker is still claiming that the law will soon be working as it should.

Gov. Pritzker responded to the topic during a press conference about childhood education.

“Don’t miss the headline here, you can’t buy an assault weapon or a high-capacity magazine in Illinois today,” Pritzker said. “2.4 million people do not own assault weapons.”

New rules will soon go into effect detailing how people who own assault weapons can register them with the Illinois State Police after a legislative committee voted on guidelines clearing up the registration process.

“I actually feel very confident we’re going to have the registration process working the way it should,” Pritzker said.

The governor is wrong about being able to buy an “assault weapon” or magazine that can hold more than ten rounds. No, you can’t do it legally, but the Protect Illinois Communities Act hasn’t disrupted the booming and illicit trade in arms and ammunition. As for Pritzker’s assertion that 2.4 million people don’t own “assault weapons”, I’d say the number is far higher, given Illinois’ population of 12.6 million. But if Pritzker believes that none of the 2.4 million FOID holders own one of these now-banned firearms he’s utterly clueless. If nothing else, we know at least 29,357 FOID cardholders possess one or more so-called assault weapons, because they’ve alerted the state police to that fact.

The ISP hasn’t released any county-by-county numbers, but my hunch is that most of those gun owners who have complied with the registration demands live in the Chicagoland area, where the law is more likely to be enforced compared to the downstate counties with sheriffs and state’s attorneys who’ve publicly declared their opposition to the measure.

Not every FOID holder owns one of the now-banned firearms, of course. In fact, there’s no real way of knowing what the actual rate of compliance with the gun registry might be, but there are some folks who can make educated guesses, like Dan Eldridge of Maxon’s Shooter’s Supplies. He estimates that somewhere between four and eight percent of gun owners who fall under the mandate have complied to date. That would mean hundreds of thousands of gun owners across Illinois are acting in defiance of the legislature’s edict and Pritzker’s demands, but he’s still acting like the law has been some huge success.

“First, they’re expensive,” Pritzker said Wednesday of the banned semi-automatic firearms. “Second, it’s a fraction of the 2.4 million people who have FOID cards that have an assault weapon, many of them having multiples of them. And third, the rules hadn’t really been approved until yesterday by the committee in the legislature.”

Yeah, about that. The convoluted rules written by the Illinois State Police received a formal rebuke from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Wednesday. Though they were given final approval, a majority of the panel approved a motion declaring that the agency’s rules do not meet the criteria imposed by JCAR, which requires rules to be “simple and clear so that the rule can be understood by the persons and the groups the rule affects.” The committee’s objection went on to declare that “the rule contains definitions that are subjective and open to broad interpretation by an enforcing jurisdiction which leaves the regulated public without clear direction with how to comply with the rule.”

If Pritzker was hoping that JCAR’s adoption of the ISP rules would unleash a flood of gun owners ready to register their rifles with the state, he’s going to be sorely disappointed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers reported by the ISP inch upwards (after all, they can’t go down), but if there was going to be widespread buy-in to the registration demands we would have seen evidence of that long before the deadline took effect, even if the final rules weren’t in place. The fact that we’re now almost three weeks past the registration deadline and Pritzker is still making excuses for the widespread civil disobedience on the part of gun owners is hilarious… or at least it would be if we weren’t talking about the criminalization of a constitutionally protected right.



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