Here is what I wrote and sent off to do my part to defeat this inconceivably useless legislation.
Dear Representative _
As one of your districtís voting members, I am writing to express my concern over a bill recently submitted in the Illinois House of Representatives, HB5831. This bill would require a $65 registration fee for each handgun owned by residents of Illinois, as well as a renewal fee every 5 years. I am asking you to vote against this bill should it come to the floor.
This bill is first and foremost unnecessary, and an unwarranted attack on legal gun owners. The burden and cost of handgun registration would fall on those least likely to break the law. Law-abiding gun-owning citizens are not the source of gun-related crime; every resident of this state who legally owns a firearm must already pay for a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card issued by the Illinois State Police, and undergo a federal background check with each and every gun purchase. Criminals who use guns to commit crimes would not be stopped by this new legislation, as they most likely possess firearms illegally.
In addition, this bill penalizes people for the simple act of gun ownership, especially when they own several handguns. Perhaps supporters imagine that citizens who purchase handguns are wealthy (certainly not the case by any means), but even if we assume that to be true, consider the following scenarios for other individuals who might lack financial means to pay registration fees:
- inheritors of firearm collections
- gun owners who purchased collections when in better financial straits, and now finding themselves unemployed or impoverished
- retired citizens on fixed incomes with firearms
- people that will move here, who already own firearms
These individuals would be penalized with large fees, and would most likely have to forgo their heirlooms or turn in valuable possessions to authorities without recompense (to avoid being in violation of the law as proposed). Some have made comparisons between the duty to register oneís car and the duty to register oneís handgun. This is a false comparison...driving and owning automobiles is not a constitutionally-granted right, whereas the right to bear arms is.
There are more questions associated with this bill which indicate its lack of credulity:
- Why would this program suddenly be be a focus of Cook-county area politicians? According to the Chicago Police Department website, crime statistics indicate that overall violent crime has decreased 44.8% since 1999 (from 796 incidents in 1999 to 439 reported in 2010). State figures are comparable on the Illinois State Police website.
- If gun registries are critical to preventing and solving crime, why the focus on handguns rather than all types of firearms?
- Supporters of HB5831 reference a statistic that 56% of guns used in crime in Chicago come from outside the city. This is a red-herring argument; Chicago has no gun stores.
If a gun registry database is desired in this state (although reasoning for such is highly dubious), there are other more credible options for implementation. Perhaps an opt-in registry, free of charge and maintained by voluntary donations, or a legal duty to maintain personal records of firearm ownership (failure to maintain personal records in the event of theft would be a crime). Do not criminalize the possessions of millions of Illinois gun owners. We are asking for your support. Thank you.