CASEYVILLE, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Gun owners have until Jan. 1, 2024 to register any assault weapons or guns with attachments that fall under the Protecting Illinois Communities Act.
The law requires gun owners to register guns that are included in the law, but many across the state are confused or concerned about the extent of the law. The Illinois State Police held the third and final public hearing about the rules for this new registration program in Caseyville on Monday.
The hearings were specifically requested by lawmakers. Their offices had been getting questions consistently about the new program.
Well over 100 gun owners crowded into the Caseyville Village Hall for the final meeting. Questions ranged from seeking clarification on which guns fall under the law, whether certain attachments made it so a gun needed to be registered and how repair parts can be purchased for guns that were grandfathered in under the law.
There were also questions over whether federally licensed gun shop owners needed to register guns that they had in inventory, since they technically owned the guns.
The hearing was led by special counsel for the Illinois State Police. Most questions were met with answers already listed in a lengthy Frequently Asked Questions Page on the Illinois State Police’s website. The website also includes an 85-page document showing names and pictures of guns and attachments that fall under the law.
If the Illinois State Police did not have an answer, they would take a note of the question, and say the website would be updated with an answer to that question.
“ISP has made every endeavor to ensure our administrative rules are within the authority set forward in the statute by the legislature,” ISP Special Counsel Suzanne Bond said.
Some in the crowd did not feel many of the answers given on the FAQ were strong enough. Audible groans could be heard from the crowd with each successive time an answer began with a referral to the ISP website. The lack of a proper speaker system at the Village Hall also made it difficult for many of the people in attendance to hear the questions and answers.
State Senate Republican Terri Bryant was upset with the way the hearing was conducted, especially since there are less than two months before the law goes into effect.
“Although the state police that are here attempted to do a good hearing, it was a farce,” Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said.
Bryant refused to say whether she owned guns that needed to be registered under the law. She said even she is confused about which attachments make a gun fall under the law.
“I know which ones need to be registered when it’s specific, not a type of firearm, but that specific firearm. I have lots of questions about what appendages have to be (registered),” Bryant said.
Illinois State Rifle Association Lobbyist Ed Sullivan spoke at the hearing. He openly questioned why any gun owner would comply with any registration requirement from the government.
Sullivan said he will not comply with the registration component of the Protecting Illinois Communities Act. While he says he won’t comply, that does not mean he intends to violate the law. Instead of registering his guns, he says he will move them to a different property in another state.
Sullivan is going to those lengths because he fears a potential mass confiscation of guns by the state using the assault weapon database.
“People will think that maybe this is a tinfoil hat response,” Sullivan said. “But registration is always in the history of the world medic compensation. And so the next Highland Park shooting that we have, they will now have a list of people that have these firearms, and they will come to them after they pass legislation, to in essence, Ban what they termed as assault weapons.”
At no point has Governor Pritzker or the Illinois State Police indicated they plan to use the information collected within these registrations for anything other than keeping track of the remaining legally owned assault weapons in the state. The database is meant to create a process for authorities to find the owner of a weapon if that weapon is used in a crime.
Still, one speaker after another warned of a mass rejection of the program, saying many gun owners wouldn’t comply.
Republican candidate for the 12th Congressional District Darren Bailey spoke at the hearing. Bailey, who is challenging incumbent Congressman Mike Bost in the primary, said he will not comply with the law.
“This is America,” Bailey said. “Where we have fought for our freedoms with unwavering resolve throughout history. We will not bow down. We will not cower in fear. We will defend our liberties and our families from any threat, even if that threat emanates from our own government.”
When asked what his advice would be to a constituent trying to decide whether they should register their guns, Bailey said this is up to the individual.
“I believe this is unconstitutional,” Bailey said. “I believe that this will be stricken down by the courts eventually. And I believe you know, people are going to have to do what they feel comfortable with. I for one will not comply.”
Congressman Bost sent a statement to the Capitol Bureau after the hearing.
“Our Founding Fathers made it very clear that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. What J.B. Pritzker and the radical liberals have done is nothing short of an assault on our constitutional rights,” Bost said in a statement. “For some politicians, the Second Amendment is just a campaign talking point; for me, it’s a battle that conservatives can’t afford to lose.”
Bryant said that gun owners should wait until more of the process plays out, and more information is made available before deciding to register their guns.
“My advice to them is wait till December 31st to see what the US Supreme Court does, don’t do anything until then,” Bryant said. “At that point, each individual has to make their own decision about what they’re going to do with their firearms.”
After Jan. 1, if a gun is not registered properly, the gun owner could be at risk of getting charged with a misdemeanor charge on the first offense, and then a felony on the second offense.
It’s not clear how the Illinois State Police will enforce the law going forward. The question was asked at the Caseyville hearing, and it was met with a word for word reading of an answer from the State Police’s website.
“Law enforcement agencies, including the ISP, are charged with enforcing the Protecting Illinois Communities Act throughout the state. ISP will continue to enforce the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act and Article 24 of the Criminal Code of 2012 by partnering with local law enforcement through our Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force. The task force is a collaborative effort to reduce and prevent illegal possession and use of firearms, firearm related homicides, and other violent crimes.”
The Illinois State Police will testify in front of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Tuesday. They will report on the conversations from the past three hearings.