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Appellate Court Allows Illinois FOID Law To Stand

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Illinois 4th District Appellate Court is allowing Illinois' Firearm Owners Identification Act to stand. 

The pro-firearm group Guns Save Life sued the state, arguing the requirement for a FOID card to own a gun and the license fees violate the U.S. Constitution. They sought a preliminary injunction to block the law's enforcement due to the harm they say it inflicted on Cook County resident Harold Meyer; and a second, unnamed Marine veteran from Illinois; who were denied firearm possession due to the law.

In October oral arguments, Illinois Deputy Solicitor General Sarah Hunger said the FOID law fulfills a vital public safety need.

"One individual threatened to put his neighbor in a wood chipper and six feet underground. You know, that came out in the course of [Illinois State Police] going through and checking to see whether this person was dangerous," Hunger said. "That person obviously thought they weren't dangerous. And without a system like this, that person would possess a firearm." 

Hunger said FOID is a longstanding regulation used to prevent felons and the mentally ill from obtaining guns. She also said the law's longevity factors in its favor. The act was passed in 1968, before the right to bear arms was added to the state constitution.

But Guns Save Life attorney Pete Patterson disagreed with that reasoning. 

"Another thing [Hunger] said was that if felons and the mentally ill can be prohibited from possessing firearms, that means the state needs to be able to track everyone to determine that they're not felons or mentally ill. But that simply one does not follow from the other," said Patterson. "That would like being saying in the First Amendment context, because we can ban libel and slander, we have to have everyone get a license before they can post anything  to Twitter to ensure what they're saying isn't libelous or slanderous." 

He argued the FOID system is an "extreme outlier" in the American system. Only Massachusetts uses a similar gun regulation framework that requires a license to possess a gun within one's own home. 

The appellate court ruled that while Guns Save Life made some valid points, maintaining the long-standing status quo of the FOID system ultimately outweighs the immediate benefits of blocking the law via a preliminary injunction. 

The court did not make a judgment on the constitutionality of the FOID law itself. Read the court's decision here.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.