As the Chicago Tribune reports, a committee of the Chicago City Council is considering a proposal to create an online database of gun offenders, complete with photographs and interactive maps. If approved, anyone convicted of a felony gun offense after the ordinance’s effective date would have to register with the city as a gun offender. Offenders would have to register within 48 hours of conviction or, if sent to jail or prison, their release from the institution. Conviction for failure to register could result in a 6-month jail sentence and $500 fine. Allow me to explain the problems with this firearms offender registry plan:
In Illinois, which does not allow concealed carry, it is a felony to carry a concealed firearm. That means what is perfectly legal in 48 other states is a felony in Illinois (Illinois calls concealed carry “unlawful use of a firearm”). An example of the injustice such a registry will create can be seen in the case where a man used a gun to defend himself from a bat wielding racist attacker. Despite the fact that carrying the gun may have saved his life and the lives of his friends, that man committed a felony. Chicago’s proposed gun registry would require that citizen, who acted in self defense, to register with the gun offender database, and have his name/address/photo placed online. The man’s neighbors, friends, and prospective employers would then see that he was convicted of “unlawful use of a firearm,” and might not want to employ or otherwise interact with him – since they would not know that he had just acted in self defense against a racist attacker who was swinging a baseball bat.
Unlike a citizen who violated Illinois’ firearms laws in self defense, a hardened criminal won’t care about having their name in a gun offender registry. Instead, a criminal might even benefit from such notoriety, as it would boost their “street cred” since criminals gain respect from each other through the commission of crimes.
Increase in crime
Although many criminals are beyond rehabilitation, some do wish to turn their lives around. To do so, they need to get a stable job, have a place to live, and associate with law abiding citizens. Being listed in a gun offender registry would hurt their abilities to gain employment, lease an apartment, or build friendships with law abiding citizens. The result would be criminals who wish to straighten up and fly right, but are shunned by society and therefore return to crime.