Poll Claims Illinois Voters Back Mental Health Checks Before Gun Purchases

Right now, especially in a state like Illinois, it’s not particularly easy to purchase a firearm. Not really.

First, you have to get a Firearm Owners Identification Card which has a whole list of things you have to do in order to receive it. Then you have to go to the gun store and jump through all the federal hoops which mirror what you with through for the FOID. All so you can then drop a few hundred bucks on a firearm.

However, a recent poll suggests that Illinois residents think guns should be even harder to get.

Illinois residents across the state, and across party lines, largely support more gun regulations. That’s according to the results of an NPR Illinois – University of Illinois Springfield survey. We took a look at the new data and explored what might be behind the numbers.

Gun violence has touched all areas of the country, including here in Illinois. Less than a year ago, a mass shooting in Aurora, combined with high profile shootings in other states, re-opened the gun debate in Illinois.

There have been renewed calls for more statewide firearm restrictions, but nothing major became law this year. So when researchers polled likely Illinois voters for this latest survey, they asked about specific ideas state lawmakers are considering, including requiring mental health background checks on all firearm purchases, fingerprinting Firearm Owner ID card applicants, and banning what are commonly considered “assault-style” weapons and magazines that can carry more than 10 bullets at a time, considered “high capacity.”

Wait…was one of those mental health background checks?

Uh…yeah, and it seems like it’s really popular.

The results show 92 percent of Illinoisans support making mental health background checks more stringent. That’s about the same number as a similar survey from last year. Another 74 percent back the idea of banning assault weapons, a big jump from 2018. While there is a partisan split on that question, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans are in favor.


Did they just poll people in Chicago? No, I’m seriously asking, because I find it very difficult to believe that people in the more rural parts of the state actually back nonsense like this.

My problem with anything that smells of mental health checks is that mental health professionals are still human and still have biases. Many have an anti-gun bias, after all. Further, much of mental health examinations involve opinions of people’s responses. It’s not hard to see these kinds of checks keeping law-abiding, peaceful people from owning guns simply because someone with an anti-gun bias conducted the exam.

And that’s about the only way to evaluate mental health without creating more of a freaking nightmare from a patient protection standpoint. After all, putting people’s mental health issues into a central database is just begging for someone to hack it and broadcast the info.

Further, a 2014 study argues that there are questions about the validity of these checks anyway.

However, there is much debate over whether people with mental illness should be included in background check databases or if their inclusion is counterproductive to the treatment of mental illness and the prevention of gun violence. The literature suggests that mental illness is not a reliable predictor of violence, rather a history of violence and current threats of violence are the best predictors of future violence.

So really, it’s time for discussions like this to end. The people polled don’t know what they’re really asking for. They don’t know what they’re being asked about. They’re just making vague noises because they think crazy people shouldn’t have guns. They just don’t know how anything of this sort would actually work and it didn’t matter for the purposes of the poll.

If there’s any sense in Illinois, they’ll ignore this.

Oct 27, 2021 12:30 PM ET