It’s just a fact of life that handguns are now permanent legal fixtures in the American landscape. We have to live with that.
But the freedom to own a firearm doesn’t mean it has to be free of charge. It doesn’t mean that owners can’t be a tiny bit inconvenienced. And someone’s right to own a gun certainly does not trump the safety rights of the rest of us.
This is what the pro-gun people don’t seem to understand.
Gun rights advocates in Illinois are in an uproar over legislation that is being debated in the General Assembly. The bill simply would make it harder for people who aren’t supposed to have guns to legally obtain them.
The amendment to House Bill 96, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Willis, is one of several bills introduced in the aftermath of a multiple shooting at a manufacturing warehouse in Aurora in February.
Of course, we don’t know if stricter state laws could have stopped 45-year-old Gary Martin from shooting five co-workers to death, in addition to injuring five police officers, after learning he was to be terminated. But many Illinois residents are demanding that our lawmakers at least give it a try.
What we do know is that Martin never should have had access to his .40-caliber handgun when he went on his deadly rampage. He had a valid firearm owner’s identification card when he purchased the gun in 2014, but he’d lied on his application about his felony conviction.
Because fingerprinting was not required for the FOID card, the Illinois State Police did not know about Martin’s criminal record in Mississippi. Later that year, he applied for a concealed carry license and opted to speed up the process by submitting fingerprints. That tipped authorities off about his prior conviction for aggravated assault, but he never turned the gun over to local authorities as required by law.
The Second Amendment allows people to legally acquire a handgun. The Supreme Court has made that clear. But all of us should be able to rest assured that people like Martin, who was killed in the incident, can’t get one.
Why would anyone, especially the many law-abiding gun owners who go through the proper channels to obtain their firearms, have a problem with closing the loopholes?
“It’s unfair.” “Everybody’s picking on us.” “It wasn’t the gun’s fault. It was the shooter’s fault.” “He was deranged.”
How many times have we heard that?
Gun lovers don’t seem to have a substantive argument against Willis’ legislation, but the Illinois State Rifle Association laid out some of the issues last week on its website. For those who don’t know, the ISRA is our local version of the National Rifle Association.
The ISRA is livid that everyone who applies for a new FOID card or renews one would have to be fingerprinted. The cost of this would be “astronomical, up to $250.” In addition, the ISRA says, applicants would have to pay for their own background check, costing another $100 or more.
But who says that the people who choose to own firearms shouldn’t have to go into their pocketbooks every now and then? Gun owners have no problem shelling out $600 for the latest Smith & Wesson. But if you ask them to pay $10 — the current cost of a FOID card — they go ballistic. They are perfectly satisfied allowing taxpayers who would never own a gun to supplement the administrative costs for their freedom.
There’s nothing wrong with forcing the people who like guns to kick in the extra costs for law enforcement officials to run the program properly, including following up on people like Martin who have had their FOID cards revoked.
Under the proposed law, when FOID cards are revoked and the holders fail to turn over their firearms, the state police would have the power to seek a search warrant and confiscate the weapons.
In addition, people would no longer be able to apply for FOID cards online. Applicants would have to go to an ISP district office to apply in person, and the cards would remain active for five years instead of 10.
The ISRA has a big problem with that. “Where would everyone park?” “Where would they sit?” “What about restrooms?” Really, gun-lovers, is that the best you can come up with?
Of course, the made-up issue of discrimination is always hovering somewhere. Gun advocates love to equate demanding background checks for firearms to requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls voter ID laws a solution in search of a problem. The only type of fraud photo IDs could prevent is where someone votes while pretending to be someone else — something that is extremely rare.
The comparison should be particularly offensive to racial minorities, who overwhelming are the targets of such stringent voting laws.
In a country with a history of Jim Crow laws that specifically targeted African-Americans, suggesting that gun-owners, who are mostly white, are targeted because they choose to own guns is another lame argument for reverse discrimination.
The operative phrase here is “choose to own guns.” Racial minorities have no say in which race they belong to. Laws that disproportionately affect them because of their race are unlawful.
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to require background checks for gun owners. The Aurora shooting is just one of them.
Though it faces a tough road ahead, this legislation could actually help save human lives. But that’s not the concern of the ISRA. It has more important things on its mind.
“You also can’t loan a firearm to anyone else for hunting or recreational shooting,” the website warns. “This bill exposes where the anti-gun side wants to go. This must not happen.”
It also shows exactly what the priorities are for the poor, victimized gun lovers.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.