By Andrew Thomason Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD – Out-of-state gun owners dodged a bullet in Illinois on Thursday.
The Illinois Supreme Court overturned a case that made it illegal for non-Illinois residents to carry a gun in the state without an Illinois Firearm Owner Identification Card, something that only Illinois citizens can obtain.
The ruling stems from a case out of Chicago. Following a routine traffic stop, Leonard Holmes, Jr., a resident of Indiana, was charged with two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.
During the stop, police discovered a loaded pistol in the backseat armrest of Holmes’ car, which generated the first charge. Police also tacked on a charge of carrying a firearm without an Illinois FOID.
The court ruled 7-to-0 that someone who has a permit to have a gun from their home state doesn’t need to also get a FOID card.
“As the majority points out, if we were to strictly apply the FOID card requirement … nonresidents whose weapons are unloaded and enclosed in a case but who do not have an Illinois FOID card would be guilty of a felony,” Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman wrote.
For the southern Illinois city of Sparta, the ruling was a matter of economic survival. Sparta is home to the $50 million World Shooting & Recreational Complex. Chris Hespen works for the complex and said it hosted about 300 shooting events during 2010.
During its biggest event, the Armature Trapshooting Association’s Grand American, the complex saw sport shooters from across the nation and from 17 countries, according to Hespen. He said Thursday’s ruling diverted an economic disaster.
“It would have been detrimental and crippling,” Hespen said. “This facility here, yeah we offer day use and walk-in outdoor sportsmen an opportunity to recreationally shoot, but this facility is written and built for tournaments and competitive shooting events.”
Law enforcement and state’s attorneys in border communities said the court’s decision just brings the law in line with how they’ve been operating.
Jon Barnard is the Illinois State’s Attorney for Adams County, which sits on the Mississippi River across from Missouri. He said it’s not uncommon for situations similar to Holmes’ to come up there, especially during hunting season. Adams County had the second- highest number of deer harvested in Illinois last year.
“If they’re permitted to have a gun in their home state and they just happen to be traveling through the state of Illinois and they get stopped for a speeding ticket or whatever and there’s a gun in the car, well we’re not going to charge them with a FOID card violation,” he said.
Like Adams County, East Moline sits on the Mississippi, only it borders Iowa. East Moline Police Department Captain William DeVrieze said his department has taken the same approach as Adams County.