Have you ever walked through a rural neighborhood, and passed a house with a sign declaring “This Property Protected by Smith & Wesson”? It’s usually accompanied by a drawing of a handgun.
These firearms enthusiasts are eager to advertise the fact that they’re armed and dangerous. They figure it’s the best way to prevent criminals from breaking into their houses.
It turns out that most gun owners are more publicity-shy. After Attorney General Lisa Madigan responded to a request by the Associated Press by ruling that Firearm Owners Identification cards are a matter of public record, the state House passed a bill to shield FOID holders. The vote was 98-12, with only a few Chicago-area liberals dissenting. (Lisa's father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, voted no.)
In an argument that runs counter to the “Smith & Wesson” signs, gun owners feared that criminals would inspect the lists, then break into their houses, seeking weapons.
“The Attorney General seems to think that gun owners in Illinois are equivalent to sex offenders and that our names are to be published out there and to be vilified, scorned, or made targets of,” Illinois NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde told NRA News.
I understand why Vandermyre feels strongly about this. The gun lobby believes that gun ownership is the most essential right of citizenship, more important than freedom of speech, or even voting. And I have to say I agree with him on this bill. Because it also protects the millions of Illinoisans who don’t have guns. If Madigan’s ruling had been allowed to stand, the local crackhead who wanted to steal a TV could have taken the L downtown, inspected the list of FOID holders, and discovered which houses in his neighborhood were not protected by Smith and Wesson. Then, having done his homework, the crackhead would have broken into an unarmed house.
Keeping FOID cards secret protects the unarmed as much as it does the armed. Now we can all put “Protected by Smith & Wesson” signs on our front doors -- and the crackheads will just have to guess who’s telling the truth.
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