Illinois governor orders State Police to use more discretion in approving gun licenses

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

I know, I know. The Supreme Court just said that discretionary policies like requiring people to show “good cause” or a “justifiable need” to carry a firearm in self-defense are unconstitutional. And yet, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is empowering the State Police to more broadly use their discretion to deny FOID cards or concealed carry licenses when there are “clear and present danger” reports. .

The “clear and present danger” portion of the state’s Firearm Owner ID law first came on most folks’ radar after the July 4th shooting in Highland Park, after it was revealed that the suspect in that case (who will not be named by Bearing Arms) had a report filed against him after police responded to his home in September of 2019 after receiving a report that he was threatening to kill family members. Knives were seized from the home, but no arrest was made nor was the suspect taken in by police for a mental health evaluation. Instead, officers filed that “clear and present danger” report with the State Police, but because the suspect had not yet applied for a FOID card authorities say it wasn’t a factor when he did submit an application a few months later.

Law enforcement aren’t the only ones who can file these reports. Doctors, mental health workers, and even school administrators can also submit reports if they think that the subject “pose[s] an actual, imminent threat of substantial bodily harm to themselves or others that is articulable and significant, or who will likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety” if they can legally purchase or possess a firearm.

Priztker’s order doesn’t expand who can file a report. Instead it lowers the standard to submit one to the state police.

According to Pritzker’s office, additional administrative rules have “unnecessarily limited and complicated” the Illinois State Police’s ability to use clear and present danger reports since 2013. The emergency rule change scraps these administrative add-ons, reverting to the statutory definition of clear and present danger.

“The former administrative rule required a clear and present danger to be ‘impending, ‘imminent’, ‘substantial’ or ‘significant,’” according to a press release from the governor’s office. “Clear and present danger under state law however is more broadly defined requiring ‘physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions, or other behavior…’ This emergency rule will now allow the Illinois State Police to consider a broader range of information by simply applying the statutory definition of clear and present danger.”

The change also allows police to maintain historic clear and present danger information for individuals when considering their future FOID card applications, even if the individual had no application pending at the time when they received the designation.

This sounds like a “red flag” law (which Illinois also has, by the way) on steroids, but it also highlights a huge problem with the state’s “clear and present danger” reporting. As I mentioned, the suspect in the Highland Park shooting was labeled a clear and present danger to himself or others, but police didn’t even bother to take him in for a mental health check, much less arrest or charge him with any crime. None of those things are required by law in order to label someone a “clear and present danger”. There’s no judicial determination either, simply a subjective judgement on the part of the State Police that determines whether someone can exercise a fundamental civil right.

It seems like this is not only an unconstitutional law, but completely ineffective in dealing with individuals who are truly dangerous. It gives far too much power to the state police to deny individuals their Second Amendment rights, while failing to adequately address those individuals who do pose a danger to themselves or others. Does anybody really believe that removing their ability to legally own a gun actually solves the problem when it leaves the supposedly dangerous individual otherwise untouched?

Lord knows it’s easy enough to illegally get a gun in Illinois. Just look at Chicago, where Barack Obama said it’s easier for teenagers to get a gun than a book. It’s not that easy, of course, but not only can violent criminals illicitly arm themselves with ease but they’re getting away with murder (and robbery, carjackings, and other violent crimes) at an alarming rate.

The police have made arrests in just 12% of crimes reported last year, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis. That’s the lowest level since at least 2001, the first year the data was made publicly available.

The overall arrest rate peaked at nearly 31% in 2005 and has dropped steadily.

… There also was a plunge in the number of arrests are for so-called index crimes, which include homicide, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated battery.

Officers made arrests in fewer than 6% of those crime categories that were reported last year, the lowest level since at least 2001, the Sun-Times analysis of Chicago police data found. The trend has continued this year, according to figures through early June.

A clearance rate of less than 10% for the most serious crimes committed in Chicago? No wonder Pritzker wants to make it easier to deny individuals their right to keep and bear arms even without an arrest or conviction. It makes it easier to avoid the utter failure of Chicago Democrats when it comes to one of the primary functions of law enforcement.

Giving the state police more power to subjectively deny FOID cards is just a way for Democrats to avoid taking on the very real challenge of fixing a broken criminal justice system (and mental health system, but that’s another post for another day) at the expense of our civil rights, and this “fix” will hopefully be subject to a legal challenge in the very real future. In the meantime, Pritzker’s obsession with gun control instead of focusing on violent crime poses a clear and present danger to every Illinois resident worried about the growing dangers outside their door.