No reason to be upset over concealed carry of weapons
By Bill Mego firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2012 10:52PM
Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:17AM
By next summer, it’s very likely that the State of Illinois will, like every other state, allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, that has many people more than a little upset. They shouldn’t be.
One reason concealed carry is so hotly debated is that it’s not clear exactly what effect it has. Clearly, it prevents some crimes, like muggings, from happening, but those instances go largely unreported. In terms of actual crime statistics, concealed carry has an effect that is barely noticeable. It doesn’t effect crime in places that already have a lot of it, like the West Side of Chicago, and it certainly doesn’t have any effect in places that essentially lack crime, like Naperville.
As the Constitution is now interpreted, correctly in my opinion, Americans have a right to keep and, yes, bear arms. The phrase “well regulated militia” in the Second Amendment originally meant armed neighbors who got together and practiced a lot. Every constitutional scholar I’ve ever met agrees that the right to bear arms for defense is an individual right, and the courts have declared that Illinois must let its citizens exercise that right.
So is there nothing an anti-gun person can do? Quite the contrary. Illinois has a remarkably effective program, the Firearm Owners Identification card, that makes it illegal for anyone to possess or purchase guns or ammunition unless they have a current and valid FOID card. It’s like a continuous background check that applies to both gun store and private gun show sales. It could serve as a model for the nation, but it’s broken.
Felons can never hold a FOID card. Theoretically, if you break any one of a number of laws, or are found to have a serious mental condition, your FOID card is taken away and you can no longer buy or even possess guns or ammunition. But the program is undermanned and underfunded, and the courts aren’t living up to their responsibilities.
Under current law, judges “shall direct” the clerk of the court to report to the state police the names of those found to be seriously mentally ill. In all but three counties, however, the judges don’t so direct the clerk, so the names are never reported and the person is allowed to keep their FOID card. On average, less than a third of those whose cards have been revoked actually lose their cards.
So if you’re upset by Sandy Hook and want to fix something, fix that. No new laws have to be passed and most gun owners are already on your side. And, by the way, make sure the reports contain the information the FBI needs to add the person’s name to the national database. Currently, most of them don’t.
A FOID program wouldn’t have helped in Sandy Hook, but it would have in other mass shootings. What will help in all of them is a commitment by the entire community to help the parents of mentally disturbed young men who are preoccupied with violence deal with, and safely care for, their children. Right now, they’re largely on their own and most of them are scared to death. Frankly, so are we, so let’s do something about it.
Helping families in situations like that is not only in our enlightened self interest, it’s part of our responsibility as members of our community and as parents. It’s an investment in the future that we should have made years ago. The world will definitely not end on Friday, when the 12th 394-year baktun of the Mayan long form calendar ends, and the 13th begins. Would there be any better way to celebrate the fact that the world goes on than by helping the families of mentally ill kids?