(The Center Square) – A White County Circuit Court judge has again ruled Illinois’ Firearm Owner Identification Card is unconstitutional, setting the stage for the Illinois Supreme Court to reexamine the issue.
In 2017, Vivian Brown, an elderly resident of White County, was charged with violating the FOID card law for owning a rifle without possessing a FOID card.
In February 2018, the White County Circuit Court sided with Brown and found the FOID card law unconstitutional when applied to her case. The state appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court a few months later.
Last April, the Illinois Supreme Court didn’t make a decision on the case, calling into question the process the circuit court used.
On Tuesday, White County Judge T. Scott Webb dismissed the charges against Brown and ruled the FOID card law was unconstitutional, saying it makes the Second Amendment a “facade,” turning a right into a privilege.
“[T]he Court finds that any fee associated with exercising the core fundamental Constitutional right of armed self-defense within the convinced of one’s home violates the Second Amendment,” Webb wrote.
“[R]equiring a law-abiding citizen to obtain a FOID card and paying a $10 fee to exercise her Second Amendment right within the confines and privacy of her own home does little to protect the general public,” Webb wrote. “If the right to bear arms and self-defense are truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights, especially within the confines and privacy of their own homes. A citizen’s Second Amendment rights should not be treated in the same manner as a driver’s license.”
Webb noted the state responded that the “FOID Card Act does not ban possession of a gun in an individual’s own home for self-defense. It merely requires that an individual obtain a license before to do so.”
“The Court finds this assertion is a distinction without a difference,” Webb wrote. “Without the license, it is unlawful to possess such a firearm inside one's home. Thus, it has the same ultimate effect as an outright ban. It just gets to the same end by different means.
“Unfortunately, the State of Illinois, through the FOID Card Act, doesn’t recognize a citizen’s Second Amendment right to armed self-defense within the privacy of their home, unless and until they can pay the $10 fee, provide a photograph, and demonstrate that they don’t meet any of the litany of disqualifying criteria,” Webb wrote. “In the eyes of this Court, the entire process is inverted. The burden should be on the state.”
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson applauded the ruling and said he was hopeful for a positive outcome when the Illinois Supreme Court takes up the case.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that honest citizens should have to pay fees, fill out applications and wait on government to respond to their requests just to be able to exercise their rights,” Pearson said. “Illinois is one of only four states with the arcane FOID laws. We need to join the other 46 states that place a premium on our Constitutional liberties.”
The Illinois Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond when asked if they plan to appeal the ruling.
“I have spoken with the assistant attorney general and from my understanding, they will be filing an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court,” White County State’s Attorney Denton Aud said. “This is an issue that needs to be appealed and I hope the Illinois Supreme Court will bring some resolution to the issue.”
The state faces other lawsuits in state and federal courts over the persistent backlogs of FOID card applications. Tens of thousands of residents have been waiting months beyond the timeline allotted by law to get their cards.