Straight Shootin’: To list or not to list, that is the (silly) question

By Eric R. Sonnenberg

Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Attorney General, wants the Illinois State Police (ISP) to make public the list of Illinois FOID card (Firearm Owners Identification) holders. The ISP “respectfully disagrees” with Madigan’s opinion and denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press last fall saying it was an invasion of privacy and that disclosing that information would endanger the lives of gun owners and non-owners alike. Supporters of her position say it is public information, and they have a right to know who owns a gun and who does not. Supporters of her position need to understand this is not only foolish, but DANGEROUS!

First of all, this list will not let them know who owns a gun and who does not. In Illinois, you have to have a FOID card to legally buy a gun, but that does not mean you actually own one. Many FOID card holders do NOT own a gun. If these pro-list supporters think knowing who is eligible to own a gun is going to somehow make them safer, they are sadly mistaken. This list would only disclose potential, legal gun owners, and those are not the people the supporters should worry about. Any such list would not disclose who actually has a gun, how many, what kind, or where they keep them.

The people these pro-list supporters should worry about are CRIMINALS with guns, and there is not a list available on them. Criminals don’t have a FOID card because convicted criminals can’t get a FOID card and can’t legally own a gun. All that does not matter to the criminals, of course, because they obtain their guns illegally anyhow.

Making such a list public would only accomplish one thing: it will let the bad guys know who may have a gun and who definitely does not (legally) own a gun. It will enable them to target legal gun owners so they can steal their guns. By showing them who is NOT on the list of FOID holders, it will also allow criminals to target non-gun owners who will be easier prey. The non-gun owners may as well put a sign in their front yard proclaiming “we are unarmed, we’re defenseless, come rob us!”

The public information argument is a weak one. You cannot make such a list public when it will endanger the general welfare of the public. If this list is made public, what will be next? Will they make public a list of registered Democrats and Republicans, who voted in the last election, who is (or isn’t) a high school or college graduate, who is getting food stamps, who is HIV positive, who has had an abortion or been adopted? I think the public’s right to know ends when my welfare is at stake. My privacy trumps inquiring minds.

I really have an aversion to any kind of list and/or labels. They tend to pigeonhole you. I am an individualist and don’t like the thought of being categorized. Harry Reasoner, the old TV anchorman, had a great quote about that. He said, “I hate lists and/or labels, they can lump you together with a bunch of people with whom you may only share one thing.”

When an Illinois resident wants to obtain a FOID card that will enable him to legally buy a firearm, the ISP needs to know about it. The general public does not. The ISP has said they don’t want to make the list public because of privacy and safety concerns. They will not be making the list public anytime soon, and say they will be challenging Madigan’s position on this in court.

The Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees us the RIGHT to keep and bear arms. Whether we choose to exercise that right is nobody’s business, especially the bad guys. Let’s keep ’em guessing and not give them any ammunition they can use to harm us with.

Eric R. Sonnenberg is a Federal Firearms Licensed gun dealer who owns Forest City Firearms, 137 N. Chicago Ave., Rockford or online at He can be reached at (815) 262-4279 or via e-mail to

From the March 9-15, 2011, issue

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