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Proud, Safe Gun Owners Not Proud or Safe When Names Released

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Owning firearms is supposed to make you feel safe. Except when it doesn't.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's ruling last week that the names of the 1.3 million people with Firearm Owners Identification cards (FOID) in the state be published has gun owners up in arms, pun intended.

The same groups that declare no one would put a sign in front of their home saying NO GUN now fear the opposite. They're no longer worried about their right to bear arms, they're worried about their right to bear arms anonymously. Their right to privacy.

If the Illinois State Police release the names of FOID holders per Madigan's ruling which it has so far refused to do and which would not include FOID holders' addresses, phone numbers of photos, gun activists' fears include:

Fear that criminals will break in their houses and steal their weapons.

Fear that their jobs will be at risk thanks to anti-gun employers.

Fear that gun control groups will use the information to harass them.

And fear that they will be singled out and shamed in their communities.

"It's bad enough that private citizens are not allowed to defend themselves when they walk our dangerous streets," says Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson in preparation for a huge pro-gun rally in Springfield on Friday. "But now Attorney General Madigan willfully sets citizens up as targets for crime by releasing their personal information to anyone who asks for it."

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Pro-gun Illinois politicians say the public has no right to the information, which the Illinois State Police have kept sealed for 40 years, and have introduced counter legislation to Madigan's.

But pro-disclosure activists say knowing whether a neighbor, daycare worker or the college kid sitting next your son or daughter is armed is very much their business!

Two years ago a similar flap occurred when the Memphis Commercial Appeal decided to publish a searchable base of state firearm permit holders, despite gun owner identity protection laws in states like Florida, Ohio and South Dakota that sealed names. The Appeal had found that 70 of 154 state permit holders had criminal records including Bernard Avery (arrested 25 times with a murder charge dismissed on mental competency) and Reginald Miller (a felon with 11 arrests). Who wouldn't want to know that? Even before Tucson?

But Chris Cox, then executive director of Illinois' NRA, wrote the newspaper and called the decision "dangerous" - as if gun safety advocates and employers were armed instead of gun-owners. Hello?

In fact gun owners are so worried that Madigan's ruling will cause criminals to break in their homes and steal their weapons, you have to wonder if the weapons make them safe or unsafe. Maybe they need to buy more weapons to defend their weapons.

Here in Illinois, millions get to work every day without the help of a firearm, including women, night shift workers and people on public transportation. They attend church, college classes and state parks in cars and on foot without feeling the need to carry lethal weapons. Yet gun extremists see danger in all these activities and even in unarmed citizens knowing they're armed. They're so proud and safe as gun owners, they don't want anyone to know.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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