January 09, 2024
It will likely come as little surprise to most Firearms News readers that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s registration scheme for common semi-automatic rifles has met with massive noncompliance. After all, history has shown that registration is almost always a precursor to confiscation—a fact well understood by most gun owners. As background, after many court fights to try to halt the new law, the Protect Our Communities Act (PICA) went into effect on Jan. 1. That was the last date for those who chose to register their semi-autos instead of turning them in. However, according to the Illinois Review, as of Dec. 31 only 52,000 gun owners had registered one of more or their firearms on the PICA list. Considering there are more than 2.4 million Firearm Owner Identification card holders, that number is a dismally low 2.2 percent. Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said much of the problem is the law being intentionally confusing.
“When Gov. Pritzker signed his unconstitutional ban on commonly owned firearms last January he wanted to create mass confusion and bully law-abiding gun owners like you and me into registering our firearms by January 1 or potentially face felony charges and even imprisonment,” Pearson said in a video discussing the noncompliance issue. “This mass confusion is reflected in the registration numbers.”
One outspoken opponent of the law is former state Senator and House member Darren Bailey, a Republican who is currently running for Congress in Illinois’ 12th Congressional district. Pearson has said all along he won’t comply with the registration requirement, and now he’s sticking to his guns—literally.
“I absolutely will not,” Bailey said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “I truly believe that most of the people who have registered are just scared and are doing it out of fear.”
Unfortunately, according to Bailey, many Republicans in the state legislature aren’t speaking out strongly against the law and its implementation for the same reason—fear. Many are bogged down in politics and cronyism, which makes staying silent more expedient than speaking out.
“Career politicians are always more concerned about re-election than really doing the right thing,” Bailey said. “Also, what happens—what I witnessed in Springfield the four years I was there—was that after you're there for a time, say 10 years, you become friends with all of the lobbyists and all of the bureaucrats that are there and they'll pull a favor or two. Then all of a sudden, the day comes when they ask for a favor. And for a conservative Republican, when you start swapping favors you’re swapping ethical and moral thoughts as well.”
Noncompliance by gun owners isn’t Pritzker’s only problem with the new law. As we reported in January of last year, sheriffs from 85 of the state’s 102 counties oppose the new law and have said they will not enforce it. Prosecutors in many counties have also vowed to not prosecute violators of the law. To Bailey, the entire controversy over the new law is a Second Amendment issue that he believes more people need to understand more deeply.
“Our founding fathers were wise to describe ‘inalienable’ rights in the Constitution,” he said. “I think we Americans have forgotten what inalienable rights are—rights given to us by God as free people. And an inalienable right is something that the government should be protecting.
“I run across a lot of people who don't think like we do. They say, ‘Well, how dare you! You're violating a law. So, you're a criminal.’ Well, no, there are times when upholding the Constitution doesn't mean to uphold a tyrant that comes in and is able to force laws like this. We have the right and ability to stand up against that. At the end of the day, to what extent are we going to go to stand for our freedoms if we're just going to cower and be obedient to every rule and law pushed by a tyrant like J.B. Pritzker?”
In the end, Bailey is hopeful the law will eventually have its day before the highest court of the land.
“I truly believe that the US Supreme Court will step in when one of these lawsuits makes it there,” Bailey concluded. “I have faith in our court system that the Constitution will be upheld and that this law will be found unconstitutional. I think that will even result in ending the FOID card here in Illinois. But I don't know how long that's going to take. Until then, we’ve got to stand on our rights.”
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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