Assault weapon registration period remains open as Illinois State Police seeks further input

State Police plan more hearings on assault weapons

People who own certain guns and other items now prohibited under the state’s assault weapons ban still need to register them with the Illinois State Police. But ISP says it plans to hold additional public hearings about that process and may refine the rules before they become permanent next year.

“We are happy to address all questions and comments submitted to ISP and will be doing so in the weeks to come,” ISP said in a statement last week.

Illinois lawmakers passed an assault weapons ban during a special lame duck session in January. It came in response to a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade last summer in Highland Park.

The law prohibits the purchase, sale, possession or manufacture of a long list of firearms defined as “assault weapons” as well as large-capacity magazines and certain kinds of ammunition. But the law also says that people who already owned those items before it took effect are allowed to keep them, as long as they register them with the state police before Jan. 1, 2024.

Last month, ISP published temporary rules spelling out how people were to register those items and it began taking online registrations starting Oct. 1.

As of Oct. 18, according to ISP, 1,050 individuals had completed disclosures through that system. Those included disclosures of 2,060 firearms, 1,125 accessories and 17 ammunition supplies.

But many more people have filed questions and comments, saying the rules are vague and hard to understand and that it’s not clear which items are covered by the rules, and which are not.

Another source of confusion is the fact that the entire law is under challenge in federal court. Although one judge in the Southern District of Illinois ruled the law is unconstitutional, two other judges in the Northern District ruled that it is not. All those cases are now pending before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not yet issued a ruling.

Those temporary rules came up for review Oct. 17 at the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, a bipartisan panel that exercises oversight of the administrative rulemaking process.

“As a committee, we’ve received many, many questions on this topic as members of JCAR, and we could really literally be here all day and night going through each one of these questions, seeking answers from the Illinois State Police,” JCAR co-chair Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said during the meeting.

Republicans on the panel made a motion to file a formal objection to the temporary rules, a move that would not have prevented them from remaining in effect but would have required ISP to file a formal response. But that motion failed on a tied 5-5 vote.

But members of JCAR did unanimously agree to another motion calling on ISP to provide answers to all the questions that the committee has received from the public and to hold additional public hearings on the proposed rules – suggestions that ISP accepted.

In a statement, ISP said it has already scheduled one additional hearing, set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Stratton state office building in Springfield.

“ISP is committed to transparency with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and the public,” the agency said. “We appreciate JCAR working with us to allow the emergency rule to remain in effect as ISP works to address the concerns raised within our statutory authority.”

Contact Peter Hancock at [email protected]

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