Statement from ICPR on Illinois' Public Access Counselor's Decision on FOID Disclosure

Mar 04, 2011, 12:15 ET from Illinois Campaign for Political Reform

CHICAGO, March 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A recent decision by the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor about Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards has generated a heated discussion about the rights of gun owners, but too much of the debate has missed the target.

The FOID disclosure opinion is not about anyone's right to own a firearm, but rather, about the right of all Illinoisans – those who own guns as well as those who do not – to have access to information gathered by their own government and subject to disclosure under provisions of the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Illinois state government has made a commitment to disclosure. This state law is designed to guarantee the public that whenever possible, it will be able to access documents created and maintained by their tax dollars. This commitment to openness is fundamental, as it allows the public to monitor governmental work and thus, serves as a deterrent to corruption.

The FOIA, which was revised though a law which took effect Jan. 1, 2010, establishes a presumption that all records in the custody or possession of a public body are "to be open to inspection or copying." Records may only be denied to the public when the governmental unit has shown that the release of such information is not required because it falls under the categories of information that the FOIA spells out as being exempt from disclosure.

The Attorney General's office, through the Public Access Counselor, has determined that the Illinois State Police has not demonstrated that the requested information matches any of the law's exemptions.   In fact, the ability to access FOID records allows the public to determine that public safety needs are being met by the law enforcement community, without placing an unfair burden upon lawful gun owners.

Government functions best when it operates under the full light of day.  The decision on FOID disclosure upholds that principle.

CONTACT: Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, +1-312-335-1767

SOURCE Illinois Campaign for Political Reform