Gun rights

How to Restore Gun Rights in Illinois

It is now much easier to restore gun rights in Illinois. On September 2, 2021, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on Evans v. Cook County State’s Attorney. The decision resolved two questions that have been causing delays in the lower courts of Illinois in matters of firearm rights restoration. 
First, the IL Supreme Court laid to rest the perceived “statutory merry-go-round” that the Illinois State Police (“ISP”) and some courts and had cited as the reason they could not restore a petitioner’s firearm rights. These courts and the ISP reasoned that the specific language of the FOID Card Act, in conjunction with the relevant Federal Law on the firearm rights of certain convicted criminals, made it legally impossible to restore the firearm rights of these persons. 
The IL Supreme Court disagreed with this reasoning in Johnson vs. ISP, a case similar to Evans but arising from a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, not a felony. The Evans Court has applied the same analysis and held:
“The legislature clearly intended for felons to be able to obtain relief under section 10 of the FOID Card Act. Section 24- 1.1(a)’s prohibition on the possession of weapons by felons says that it does not apply if the person has been granted relief under section 10 of the FOID Card Act. We do not believe that the legislature’s intent was to create such a right and then make it impossible for anyone to obtain relief.” (emphasis added).
In short, this is good news for our cases because it means that courts and prosecutors can no longer raise these absurd statutory interpretations in objecting to restoration petitions. Instead, these matters will be focused more on whether the evidence presented is enough to satisfy the statutory requirements for restoration in the courts’ discretion.
Second, the IL Supreme Court considered whether the “public interest” requirement of the FOID Card Act had been properly adjudicated by the lower courts in the Evans case. The majority of the decision contains a rather technical analysis of standards of review. But most importantly for our clients, and those who may be interested in charting their own path towards petitioning an IL court for restoration, the IL Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s reasoning and analysis of the evidence offered on the “public interest” requirement. 
Section 10(c) provides a mechanism for the restoration of firearm rights. That section provides as follows:
“(c) Any person prohibited from possessing a firearm under Sections 24-1.1 or 24-3.1 of the Criminal Code of 2012 or acquiring a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card under Section 8 of this Act may apply to the Director of State Police or petition the circuit court in the county where the petitioner resides, whichever is applicable in accordance with subsection (a) of this Section, requesting relief from such prohibition and the Director or court may grant such relief if it is established by the applicant to the court’s or Director’s satisfaction that:
…(3) granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest…” (emphasis added).
Evans had submitted a list of evidence to the circuit court, to support his argument that restoration would not be contrary to the public interest. The evidence included a personal statement and 4 letters of reference that spoke generally on his character rehabilitation since his conviction.
Despite all of this evidence, the circuit court still denied Evans’ restoration petition on grounds that it was not convinced that restoring his firearm rights would not be contrary to the public interest.
Ultimately, the IL Supreme Court ruled that the circuit court’s holding was not an abuse of discretion and affirmed:
The court explained that it had considered the character references petitioner submitted but found them lacking because they failed to address the responsibilities inherent in firearm ownership. The court found that the letters were devoid of fact-specific reasons why the authors believed petitioner would be able to satisfy the significant responsibilities that he would have if granted a FOID card. The court found this significant because “each of the authors clearly knew that their letters were being submitted for the very purpose of supporting Mr. Evans’s FOID application, which could lead to the ownership of a potentially deadly weapon.” The court noted that petitioner’s wife did not even mention gun ownership and that the three other character witnesses offered only general assurances that petitioner is able to discern right from wrong. However, they did not provide sufficient information about their interactions with petitioner or how often these interactions occurred. 
… The court further found petitioner’s submissions to be defective for the following reasons: (1) petitioner failed to offer any evidence about the circumstances of either of his two felony convictions, (2) petitioner did not offer specifics as to how he would be able to carry out the significant responsibilities of owning a firearm, and (3) petitioner’s felony convictions were for drug offenses but petitioner failed to explain whether he had been addicted to drugs and, if so, whether he had received drug treatment. The court found the third reason to be particularly significant because it would have allowed the court to understand the genesis of petitioner’s underlying criminal conduct and could have “provided a basis for it to conclude that Mr. Evans could be responsible to own and operate a firearm consistent with the public interest.”
For our clients and those who may be interested in petitioning the courts in Illinois for firearm rights restoration, this is certainly possible. However, the Evans case highlights how difficult it can be to satisfy the court when it comes to the “public interest” factor.
Collecting, organizing, and properly filing sufficient evidence to support a restoration petition is a complex and difficult process. Our team has years of experience in representing these matters before the courts all over IL. If you are interested in restoring your firearm rights in IL, we strongly advise against attempting to do it on your own.  
There is a lot of work that goes into preparing a Petition to Restore Firearm Rights in Illinois. For many people, it takes several months to obtain all of the necessary documentation and draft the pleadings that are required for a Petition. If you are interested in restoring your firearm rights in Illinois, you should start working on that process now so that you can be ready to file when Evans decision is issued by the Supreme Court. Feel free to check eligibility here with our confidential secure firearm rights restoration eligibility test.

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