For approximately six months now, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been aggressively enforcing state laws that allow police to seize firearms from gun owners who’ve had their Firearm Owner’s Identification cards revoked.
At the behest of Dart, small teams of deputies go door-to-door rounding up firearms, ammunition and FOID cards from convicts and individuals who’ve been adjudicated “mentally defective.”
According to Dart, in the past, law enforcement in Cook County was not doing enough to ensure those who were no longer allowed to lawfully possess firearms were giving up their guns.
“The system is broken,” the sheriff told The Chicago Sun-Times. “The system revokes cards, but the guns are of no consequence. … Our strong hope is that we will eliminate tragedies.”
Since February, when Dart breathed new life into the gun-confiscation program as part of a response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, his teams have seized around 160 FOID cards and nabbed about 160 guns.
Though, Dart admits, with more than 5,000 names on the list of FOID card revocations, they have their work cut out for them.
Unsurprisingly, the idea of a gun-confiscation task force is unsettling to many law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights. The primary reason responsible gun owners object to the program is because in order for it to be successful the government needs to maintain detailed records on who owns what, which many believe opens the door to government abuse and possible outright civilian disarmament.
“Gun databases lead to confiscation,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told the Wall Street Journal.
Gottlieb, who resides in Washington state, is currently collecting signatures for a measure that would require law enforcement in Washington to obtain a court order before being permitted to seize one’s firearms. Thus far, he’s gathered upwards of 160,000 signatures for the ballot initiative.
“We know where [the government is] going with all this: They don’t want anyone to have a firearm if they had their way,” Gottlieb added.
In addition to the registration leads to confiscation argument, Second Amendment advocates noted other concerns as well, such as the standards for which one is added to the FOID card revocation list. In short, not every felony conviction is the same. Should someone convicted of drunken driving or tax evasion lose their right to keep and bear arms?
“People that have committed a nonviolent crime are not a danger to the community,” argued George Mason University law professor Joyce Lee Malcolm, “so it seems wrong to seize guns from them.”
Cook County is not the only place where gun confiscation campaigns are underway. As reported in a previous Guns.com article, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last May that increases funding for a similar program. Moreover, as part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial gun control package, the New York SAFE Act, the Empire state has paved the way for similar efforts.
Overall though, it appears that gun owners residing outside those gun-control hotbeds have little to fear — at least for the time being.
In most states, “police simply don’t know who the gun owners are, and without that info it’s effectively impossible to have a viable felon-confiscation policy,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a interview with the Wall Street Journal. “Compiling information on who owns guns is politically toxic, so very few states can enact such policies.”
Overall, what are your thoughts? Do you support gun-confiscation programs that target certain convicts and the mentally ill?
[Cover photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times]