A case challenging Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification card law is headed to the Illinois Supreme Court, but a gun rights group said it could end up in the nation's highest court.
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said the case out of White County involved a disabled woman who had a single-shot .22 caliber rifle.
“The judge in White County said the FOID card is unconstitutional in the home,” Pearson said. “So that’s where we stand today and the state of Illinois doesn’t agree to that.”
Vivian Claudine Brown of Carmi did not have a criminal record and would have been eligible to have a FOID card. On March 18, 2017, Brown’s husband, who she was separated from, alleged Brown was shooting a gun inside, according to court documents. Police found no evidence the rifle had been fired in the residence. However, Brown was later charged with possession of a firearm without the required FOID card, a class A misdemeanor.
“Are you prohibited from having a FOID card? The judge said ‘I don’t think so,’ ” Pearson said. “She didn’t do a thing wrong except wanting to defend her own life.”
The case now bypasses the appellate court because it deals with constitutional issues, Pearson said. If the state Supreme Court agrees with the White County judge's decision, Pearson said it means people could keep a firearm in the home without a FOID card.
“The problem, of course, is if you have to transfer it to and from and that was not covered in this case, so you’d still need a FOID card,” Pearson said.
Pearson doesn’t expect the case to be heard until at least October, if not later.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office argued the circuit court's ruling missed the mark.
"But both this Court and the United States Supreme Court have held that the kinds of regulations found in the FOID Card Act – e.g., preventing felons or people from mental illnesses from possessing firearms – are the sorts of meaningful regulations permitted under the Second Amendment," the Illinois State's Attorney's Office wrote in court documents.
The defendant didn't have a criminal record, and Pearson said she was not a person who could fit into any of the "prohibited categories."
If the Illinois Supreme Court overturns the circuit court’s ruling, Pearson said his group is ready to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s a constitutional right, it's a fundamental right,” Pearson said. “There are some things about fundamental rights, you can’t make them so restrictive that you can’t do this.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously struck down some Illinois gun laws, including in 2010 in the case of McDonald vs. The City of Chicago, where the high court deemed the city’s handgun ban unconditional. An appeals court in 2011 and in 2017 struck down the city’s ban on gun ranges. And in 2012, an appeals court ruled Illinois’ ban on carrying firearms outside the home was unconstitutional. That forced state lawmakers to enact a concealed carry law that allowed residents to get a permit to carry outside the home.