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Supreme Court FOID Decision Could Have National Influence: Lawyer

the Illinois Supreme Court bench in the court's main building in Springfield
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court says a woman convicted of domestic violence should be able to get a Firearm Owners’ Identification card.

The decision is not expected to have wide effects in Illinois, but could influence other courts across the country.

Shawna Johnson’s case was specific to her — she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence back in 2001.

Years later, when she tried to get a gun permit, the Illinois State Police said no.

At issue is a federal law meant to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence, even misdemeanor offenses. The Illinois State Police used that to justify denying Johnson’s application for a Firearm Owners’ Identification Card.

But the Illinois Supreme Court essentially ruled that because the woman had done her time, the state had restored her civil rights — which includes the right to own a firearm.

Taking a broader perspective, Johnson’s lawyer, David Jensen, said Illinois is only the second state to interpret federal law this way. He said that raises possibilities “that other state supreme courts are going to make that same ruling as well as federal courts of appeals might start reconsidering their own prior rulings.”

“This decision obviously has an impact within Illinois, but outside of Illinois, the impact is going to be what it contributes to that body of jurisprudence,” Jensen said.

This is all based on a change in constitutional interpretation in the last decade or so — finding that gun ownership is a civil right.

The case is Johnson v. Department of State Police, No. 2020 IL 124213.

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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