Some times in the attempt to do good, legislatures overreach. They violate our individual rights and we are left to depend upon our courts to protect us from the tyranny of democracy. The case of People v. Brown, 2020 IL 124100 threatened to overturn the State’s firearm registration act 430 ILCS 65. This act was originally enacted in 1968. The circuit court of White County dismissed a charge against Vivian Brown, finding 430 ILCS 65/2(a)(1) unconstitutional and in violation of the United State’s Constitution. In this case, defendant Vivian Brown was arrested and charged with violating the FOID Act after officers responded to her estranged husband’s phone call regarding her shooting a gun inside her rural home. The officers investigated and found a .22-caliber single-shot, bolt-action rifle in her bedroom, but no evidence that it had been fired. The defendant denied firing the rifle. The defendant claimed that she kept the rifle in her home for self-defense; that she was over 21; and although she did not possess a FOID card, she was a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, history of mental illness, or any other disqualifying condition and could have been eligible to obtain a FOID card had she applied for one.
The Illinois Supreme Court applied the common-law doctrine that courts should not compromise the stability of the legal system when it was not required and remanded the case to be re-evaluated within a statutory rather constitutional framework. Implicit in this remand is the acknowledgement that the FOID Card Act would no longer apply to the individual in his or her home, if they otherwise would have qualified for the issuance of a FOID Card. It is interesting to note that in the decision to avoid making a constitutional decision, the majority pushes back to the lower courts the unenviable task of contorting the statute in such a way as to not violate the constitution. In doing so, the court abnegates its most sacred duty, to protect our individual liberties.
The statute doesn’t apply to US Marshals engaged in official duties, nonresident hunters during hunting season with valid nonresident hunting license, color guards while using firearms for ceremonial purposes with blank ammunition, or competitive shooting athletes whose competition firearms are sanctioned. In fact the statute has 16 enumerated exceptions to when the FOID ACT does not apply, but not a single mention of not applying in the most common of situations, by residents in their homes for self-defense.
Now the the lower courts must create a legal fiction that the legislature intended such a broad exception, even when they have demonstrated by such an exhausted list of exceptions, that they had included everything. My suggestion to the lower court, do the intellectually hard work. Find that the legislature DID intend for the FOID Act to apply within the home. Force the Supreme Court to do the most important job entrusted to it, protect our individual rights from legislative overreach.