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Illinois debates keeping gun owners' identities secret

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants to make public all registered firearm owners through the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Opponents say public disclosure could increase crime.

By Staff writer / April 10, 2011

Gun owners and supporters show their support during Gun Owners' Lobby Day at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Thursday, March 10, 2011. They were angry over Attorney General Lisa Madigan's effort to make public the names and other personal information belonging to registered gun owners.

Seth Perlman/AP

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It’s highly likely that the identity of Illinois gun owners will continue to be protected from public disclosure.

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Legislation passed in the state House of Representatives Friday circumvents the efforts of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is fighting to make the names and expiration dates of all state-issued firearm owner identification cards available through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Attorney General Madigan contends that citizens deserved to know who owns guns in their communities while gun rights advocates said the measure would lead to increased crime.

Illinois Rep. Richard Morthland (R), the bill’s sponsor, says “there is a pressing need to keep this information private.”

Revealing the names and locations of gun owners “would create a situation where there’d be increased possibility for gun violence,” he says.

The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 98-12. Although Republicans cast the majority of supporting votes, some Democrats joined their ranks in passing the measure. The bill now awaits a vote in the Illinois Senate.

Some Democrats who voted no said their opposition came from the inconsistency in state licensing. They contend that firearms licenses are the only licenses in the state that are exempt from state open-records laws.

Another showdown involving gun rights is expected to take place this coming week when lawmakers consider legislation that would allow handgun owners to conceal and carry their weaponry in public. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states in the nation that ban legal gun owners from carrying concealed weapons.

The bill would allow county sheriffs to issue conceal carry permits to firearm identification card holders if they undergo an FBI background check and pass classroom training on handguns.

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