(The Center Square) – Three public hearings will be conducted by Illinois State Police to hear comments and take questions about the state’s banned firearms registry. The first is scheduled for a room in Springfield that seats less than 100. Gun rights advocates say that’s not going to be near enough.
As part of Illinois’ gun and magazine ban enacted earlier this year, those who previously owned the now-banned firearms must register them by Jan. 1, 2024, or potentially face criminal penalties. Tuesday, a legislative panel recommended Illinois State Police provide better definitions of what’s required to be registered and to hold three public hearings.
“ISP already has one public hearing scheduled regarding the Protecting Illinois Communities Act rule and is working to schedule two additional hearings,” an agency spokesperson said.
The first hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, inside Room D1 of the Stratton Building at the capitol complex in Springfield. While a total fire code occupancy limit for that room could not be found by several sources Wednesday, one source counted 87 public chairs.
Dan Eldridge with Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois said a small committee room for such a big issue makes no sense.
“I expect that attendance at these hearings is going to be well in excess of what they can fit into that room,” Eldridge told The Center Square. “These rules are serious business. There’s compliance risk for [federal firearms licensees]. There’s compliance risk for manufacturers and customers and gun owners. We’re talking about possible felony charges.”
ISP did not initially respond to a question about whether the room for the Springfield hearing will be enough space and whether the agency is considering a backup location.
To the law, Eldridge said there’s too much ambiguity and the rules Illinois State Police filed for the gun registry didn’t help.
“What’s an instance of possession of a banned weapon? It’s never really defined. Is it per firearm that’s in your safe? Is it your safe if it’s examined at one time? Nobody knows. And the difference between one and two offenses is significant. One’s a misdemeanor and the second one is a felony where you’re stripped of your gun rights, among other things.”
With lawsuits seeking to strike the law down pending in several jurisdictions, Eldridge said holding public hearings across the state about the gun registry rules is important.
“I think the public hearings should be very informative for the state police with respect to the rules that they published,” Eldridge said.
Two of the three hearings have yet to be announced.