What was it I was just saying about Illinois politicians targeting legal gun owners while ignoring career criminals? I hadn’t run across Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s latest gun control demands when I wrote my that post, but her remarks are yet another example of the phenomenon of Democrats pretending that cracking down on law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutionally-protected rights is the best way to reduce violent crime.
Duckworth not only wants to slap a new federal ban on so-called assault weapons onto the books; she wants to establish a federal permit that would be required before you could even keep a gun in your home.
“A big portion of what’s happening is assault weapons, which are weapons of war, and the high capacity magazines that are used,” she said. “They just simply don’t belong on the streets of this of this country. And I’m gonna work to suspend, and to abandon them.”
Duckworth said she’s glad to see expanded mental health services, law enforcement information sharing, and school safety funding come from the bipartisan legislation. But she’s hopeful it’s the start of a broader legislative effort.
“I’d like to see a national FOID card. You know, in Illinois, we have a FOID card. It doesn’t stop people from being able to purchase weapons. But I think it’s important that everyone should have a background check,” she said. “You shouldn’t just be able to walk into a gun show and buy a gun without a background check. I think we need to significantly close that loophole.”
Duckworth is ignoring the fact that state courts have repeatedly found that the state’s FOID card requirement violates the constitutional rights of residents; decisions that have been overturned by a state Supreme Court that seems desperate to avoid issuing a ruling on the actual merits of the legal challenges.
Despite the Illinois Supreme Court’s reluctance to address the issues with the state’s FOID card system, the constitutional concerns are clear. The Supreme Court has recognized that we the people have a right to both keep and bear arms for self-defense; a right that can be lost through things like felony convictions or an adjudication of mental defectiveness, but one that each of us possess unless we do something to forfeit it.
In Illinois, on the other hand, no one starts out with the right to own a gun, even if it’s kept in the home. Instead, you must first prove your worthiness to the Illinois State Police by applying for a Firearms Owner ID card. Only after winning their approval (which has taken well over twelve months for many applicants in recent years) can you legally purchase or posses a firearm. Have a gun (or even ammunition) in your home without a FOID card? That’s a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison under Illinois law.
This isn’t how we treat other constitutionally-protected rights, but frankly Duckworth and her fellow anti-gun Democrats view gun ownership and the Second Amendment with contempt. They see our right to keep and bear arms as something that demands regulation, litigation, and ultimately elimination… but not protection.
Now, I don’t expect Tammy Duckworth to have a change of heart when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms, but I will point out that you don’t have to be a Second Amendment stalwart to think that creating more non-violent, possessory gun offenses is a terrible way to combat violent crime. Here’s Duckworth, for instance, talking about the need to de-criminalize marijuana possession at the federal level.
“Far too many Americans are currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses and they are disproportionally people of color, despite the fact that African Americans and Caucasians use marijuana at the same rates,” said Senator Duckworth. “For years, the Federal Government has permitted states to determine their own policies regarding marijuana, and we’ve seen those states’ economies grow while justice and fairness have improved as well.
Guess what other laws also have a disproportionate impact on people of color? Yep, the very same Illinois laws that Duckworth wants to implement coast-to-coast. According to an analysis by the website The Circuit, which uses data to investigate the Cook County criminal justice system, there are huge racial disparities when it comes to arrests for unlawful use of a weapon (which is the legal charge for possessing a firearm without the required permits).
Between 2000 and 2018, the number of weapons cases filed increased by 39% for Black defendants but decreased by 49% for white defendants. Black people, especially Black men younger than 25, are overrepresented among defendants charged in gun cases.
… The number of weapons charges rose 44% between 2016 and 2018, according to The Circuit data analysis.
“The Chicago Police Department is committed to treating all individuals with fairness and respect. We do not target individuals based on race,” said Sgt. Rocco Alioto, a spokesperson for the department, in an emailed statement. He encouraged anyone with allegations of misconduct to file a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
I don’t think this is evidence of intentional bias on the part of the Chicago police department as much as it is an artifact of the type of gun control laws that Duckworth wants to put in place. You tend to see more policing in neighborhoods with higher rates of violent crime, but those neighborhoods are also likely to have more people who are carrying a firearm for self-defense, even if they’re doing so without a license. They have no desire to commit a carjacking or an armed robbery, but they also don’t have the mandated paperwork necessary for them to avoid a charge if they’re caught with a gun.
Duckworth talks a good game about “fairness” and “justice” when it comes to de-criminalizing marijuana, but it’s hard to take her seriously when she wants to make it a federal offense to keep or bear arms without first obtaining permission from Washington, D.C. A federal FOID law would do nothing to stop violent criminals, but it would subject millions of Americans to the possibility of federal prison if they failed to obtain the paperwork required to exercise a fundamental civil right. There’s nothing just or fair about that, and Duckworth is deluding herself if she honestly believes otherwise.