Illinois’ Attorney General has instructed local law enforcement to make available to the press a list of over 1.3 million “authorized gun owners … to the press.” This is similar to the list of handguns owners in New York City that was obtained by the New York Times two weeks ago, but will include owners of other types of guns, like rifles and shotguns. It will also include all Illinois residents – not just residents of a city with especially strict firearm regulation.
The registry of gun owners is a public record, but issues of privacy have gotten in the way of previous attempts to get ahold of the list, the Atlantic Wire reports. And some law enforcement officials and Republicans in the Illinois state legislature may attempt to fight the request:
State police had initially denied the AP’s request for a list of Illinois residents with a Firearm Owners Identification card on the grounds that disclosing the names would violate the privacy of gun owners. The wire service explains that police officials have not indicated whether they will comply with Madigan’s ruling, and that there are currently Republican-sponsored bills in the Illinois House and Senate that would prohibit disclosing this kind of information.
Though New York City officials provided a list of registered handgun owners to the Times, they left out other, more personal information, like street addresses to deal with privacy concerns. It’s not clear if Illinois officials will go that route, but it seems more appropriate given that this is a more expansive list of people who own firearms other than concealed handguns.
It’s not clear that is so much a political issue rather than an issue of making public records available for public scrutiny. Since these are state, not federal records, they aren’t covered by theFreedom of Information Act. Still, this is a pretty tough trade-off between two serious goals for civil libertarians – personal privacy and transparent government.