Section: bI PAGE: 06
Head: State police refuse to disclose names of firearm owner ID holders.
By: Copley News Service
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois State Police refuses to disclose the names of the
state's 1.15 million Firearm Owner's Identification cards.
The agency rejected a request from Copley Newspapers in May to provide the
names, arguing it would violate personal privacy.
However, Copley lawyers believe case law in Illinois and two other states
backs up the news organization's claim that the records should be public
knowledge. Keeping them private means people do not know who has permission to
carry a gun and whether FOID cards are being fairly and intelligently handed
out, Copley argues.
The state police did provide Copley with portions of its FOID database,
including each card-holder's gender, race, birth date, city and county of
residence and ZIP code.
However, the state police did confirm that Russell E. Weston Jr., the
Illinois man suspected of killing two U.S. Capitol security guards July 24, has
an FOID card.
And when asked, spokesman Mark McDonald confirmed Weston's father has a
valid FOID card. The senior Weston has said his son apparently took one of his
handguns from the family home in Valmeyer.
McDonald said he disclosed the information about Weston because of the
importance of the situation. Weston had been involuntarily committed to a
Montana mental health hospital in 1996.
"I was getting inquiries from all over the country. I was being told the guy
had a FOID card - how did he get it, given his situation?" McDonald said.
McDonald checked and discovered Weston did have a FOID card. It was issued
because Illinois officials had no way of knowing about his Montana health
records, officials said.
Although Weston has not been convicted of the shooting, it was clear he was
the gunman, McDonald said.
"It was our feeling that he had given up all expectations of privacy at that
point and with the overwhelming curiosity about his situation, it was just
better to go ahead and provide the information." McDonald said.
None of the privacy exemptions in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act
applies to FOID card holders, said R. Kurt Wilkey, a partner with Barber,
Segatto, Hoffee & Hines, which represents Copley.
They pertain to personal records of patients or clients of public bodies;
public employees; holders of licenses from a regulatory agency; records
required of a taxpayer for assessment purposes; or identities of people
cooperating with administrative or police agencies.
In a 1994 case, a state appellate court ruled that the Illinois Department
of Conservation could not withhold names on applications for live pigeon
shoots, Wilkey said.
He said the California Supreme Court in 1986 ruled that information on a
concealed-weapon permit must be disclosed so that the public could check on
whether permit laws were being carried out in an even-handed manner. And in
1992, Connecticut's high court rejected a city's contention that disclosing
municipal permit records violated privacy rights.