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Opinion: Simon group’s ideas largely on target 


Southern Illinoisan
April 3, 2013
By The Southern Illinoisan Editorial Board

Respect is owed Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and her Firearms Working Group for a good-faith, sensible effort to cut through some of the rhetoric and emotion surrounding firearms law and bring forward a list of 10 points for the Illinois General Assembly to consider.

“This checklist cuts through the volatile language and gets at the heart of what we need to pass a concealed carry law that is constitutional and prevents needless deaths,” Simon said.

Illinois is the only state in the nation that bans concealed carry, but the ban was struck down last year in federal court and state officials have until early June to pass a law on the matter.

Many of the eight of 10 points seem, well, obvious. For instance, the group says a new law “must uphold the right to keep and bear arms consistent with U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution.”

Sadly, these days, that needs to be said. Our government is set as one of checks and balances. In today’s environment, perhaps the General Assembly — particularly a handful of Chicago Democrats — need to be reminded that the highest court in the land simply cannot be ignored.

Another point on the list involves permit applicants to “complete a firearm safety and live fire training program.” That hardly seems too much to ask.

There are points on the list that will require some more work for the Legislature.

For instance, “Comprehensive criminal record checks and investigations into mental health, substance abuse or domestic violence histories should be examined prior to the issuing of an applicant’s permit.”

It is certainly hard to argue with the premise. However, lawmakers will have to find — and actually fund and staff — a system that meets federal privacy laws. It should be noted the state already should be doing this now, as it has registered firearm owners for decades.

One certainty is that adjudications of mental unfitness must be fed into the existing national background check system and available to Illinois State Police. Recent reports based on the auditor general’s work indicate only 26 of Illinois 102 counties are up to date on such reporting. Really? The branches of government cannot find a way to share information in 2013?

This, too, will have to be codified: “Sheriffs, local law enforcement should give to state police information about a concealed carry applicant that might pose a safety risk should he/she be allowed to carry a concealed gun.”

This cannot be arbitrary for fear violation of the concepts of due process and equal protection under the law. The Legislature will have to draw lines, perhaps at existing judgments and pending cases.

Finally, this will need a close look: “State police should be the permitting authority for concealed carry and should maintain a database of permits issued.”

At this point in Illinois’ history, there is little point in quibbling over the concept. For decades, Illinoisans have managed to live with, if not love, the Firearm Owners Identification system.

What we would insist is that if ISP is to be the regulatory body, the new law make Illinois a “shall issue” state. If a permit applicant meets the requirements, he or she receives a permit.

“May issue” authority is too prone to an “it’s who you know” or “pay to play” condition, one we’ve seen too often in Illinois. The same rules need to apply to Joe Average as to Richie Rich.

We commend Simon and her group for giving legislators a reasonable set of parameters.

As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” and few people know that better than Illinoisans.

But the Second Amendment stands, and this state is under a federal court order. The Legislature cannot continue to dodge those facts nor continue to stall.

Illinois citizens not prohibited by law must have the right to carry if they choose to and if they go through and clear a reasonable permitting process. The checklist from Simon’s group is a good start.