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Bill To Keep FOID Card List Secret Passes Committee

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- A measure that would keep the state's list of registered gun owners private has advanced in the Illinois House.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-1 on Wednesday to exempt the list of Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card holders from the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled that the Illinois State Police must release the names of the state's registered FOID card holders because it is public information not exempted from FOIA access laws.

Citing nervous gun owners who are "up in arms, literally," State Rep. Richard Morthland (R-Moline) sponsored legislation that would exempt the state's FOID card list from FOIA requests. In 2009, lawmakers approved legislation strengthening the state's Freedom of Information Act, including tougher fines for government agencies that fail to comply with FOIA requests and allowed fewer exemptions under FOIA.

"The Freedom of Information re-do was a very good step to take," Morthland said. "However, we are seeing, that perhaps there (are) areas that incrementally we need to look at. For instance, already exempted is our library information. You can't tell if I've checked out Maya Angelou or Mein Kampf … it's not FOIA-able."

State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said he wanted to see other licenses exempted under FOIA, instead of just FOID cards.

"Why do we set FOID card holders out as a special class under the FOIA act?" he asked during Wednesday's committee hearing.

"I think, potentially, this is an incendiary situation," replied Morthland. "And I think there hasn't been a request to get out fishing licenses, that I know of."

Gun rights activists have argued that releasing the names of FOID card holders would essentially give criminals a road map to homes in Illinois where people have guns to steal or where people have no guns to defend themselves against a robber.

"I think there's a real concern among people who own guns, that if that list is released, it would be a shopping list for criminals who want to steal guns," Morthland said. "And there is a perception out there that that is exactly what the consequence of this release would be. And if that's the perception, there is a risk of gun violence."

Morthland was hesitant to add an amendment that would expand exemptions to all license holders. Lang was the lone no vote against the measure.

The proposal, House Bill 3500, now goes to the full House for a vote.

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