Emanuel to push for state-wide handgun registry

February 9, 2012

(WBEZ/file)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants lawmakers to require that all handguns in Illinois be registered with the state, or gun owners could face felony charges.

A statewide gun registry is key in helping solve Chicago crimes that involve handguns from outside the city, and would also help crack down on gun trafficking, Emanuel announced at a press conference Thursday.

Under Emanuel's proposal, handgun owners would have to pay $65 for a registration certificate from the state, which would function much like the title to a car. Illinois law currently requires that gun owners and shooters have a firearm owners identification card, which works like a drivers license. But the guns themselves are not registered at the state level.

The handgun registration certificate would include information about the owner, the make and model of the gun, as well as where and when the firearm was bought. Registration applicants would also need a valid firearm owners identification card.

Owners and dealers would be required to notify Illinois State Police whenever a handgun changes hands. The registration certificate would last for five years, and cost $25 to renew.

Handgun owners would also have to tell the state if their gun gets lost or stolen, or they could face misdemeanor charges, according to the mayor's proposal. People caught in possession of an unregistered gun would be slapped with a felony.

Chicago's tough gun ordinance, which was passed in 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the city's outright ban on handguns, already makes owners pay a fee and register firearms with the city. But Emanuel will now push for a statewide handgun registry because the majority of guns recovered at crime scenes in Chicago - about 56 percent - come from outside city limits, but within the state, according to data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that were provided by the Emanuel administration.

As the mayor of Chicago, Emanuel cannot propose legislation in the Illinois General Assembly, but he can tap allies in the state legislature to usher his bill through both houses. It's still unclear who would sponsor the bills at the state level, however.

The head of the Illinois State Rifle Association, one of the state's most prominent gun rights advocates, was quick to label Emanuel's plan as "preposterous."

He slammed the law as being excessive, especially since would-be gun owners already must be vetted in order to obtain a FOID card. And he said the fees for a registration certificate would be financially burdensome for people who own several guns.

"Firearm ownership is a right in the United States," said ISRA Executive Director Richard A. Pearson. "It's not something that's like your car or your piano or any other object that you own."

Pearson predicted any gun registration measure would have a tough time passing muster with politicians downstate, and he criticized Emanuel for trying to impose his will on all Illinoisians.

"The people in this part of the state don't much like the City of Chicago, anyway," Pearson said. "And to have the mayor have the audacity to infringe on their rights is gonna cause a firestorm."

A spokeswoman for Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said only that he would be watching how the plan moves through the legislature.  And a spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said the speaker had not seen the proposal, but has "typically been a proponent of gun safety proposals."

The city is still fighting litigation over some provisions of its firearms ordinance. And on Monday, the Second Amendment Foundation vowed to take its fight against the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons to the U.S. Supreme Court.