The bill now headed to Gov. Pat Quinn's (D) desk represents a victory for gun rights lobbyists who sought to keep gun owners' names private after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) contended that lists of those with Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards should be made public under the state's open records law.
On May 13, the Senate voted 42-1 in favor of the bill.
Sponsored by state Senator Kirk Dillard (R-24) and introduced by state Representative Richard Morthland (R-71), the measure incorporates a necessary reform to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to ensure that the personal information of those who have applied for or received a FOID card shall not be disclosed unless necessary as part of a criminal investigation. HB 3500 passed in the state House on April 8, also by a lopsided vote of 98 to 12.
Madigan's office issued the controversial decree earlier this year after the Illinois State Police refused to release to the Associated Press the names of 1.3 million citizens who are registered to own firearms in the Land of Lincoln. The AP's request set off a firestorm of protests from gun owners, gun rights organizations and the state police—who argued criminals could potentially use the information to steal guns or target those who aren't armed.
Since the ID card system was instituted in the mid-1960s, the Illinois State Police has maintained a database with all FOID information, and has considered this material to be confidential and not subject to public release.
"We've always felt that the intent of the FOID law was to keep everything private," said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. "We have (privacy laws) for medical records ... anything that could be used to do harm to the public should be kept secure."
With Quinn's expected signature, Illinois would join the ranks of Florida and Tennessee, where laws were recently passed denying public access to concealed-carry firearms permit holder names after newspapers used the FOIA to obtain and publish previously confidential information.