Reprinted from the January 2013 issue of GunNews Magazine.
Originally posted to Guns Save Life in December 2012. We’re re-posting it because of recent demand.
DISCLAIMER: Guns Save Life does not have lawyers on staff, and every state has their own set of rules regarding this issue.
If you are interested in this course of action, your best bet is to go to a meeting of a gun rights group in your state, and ask people there for lawyer recommendations. Then, talk to an attorney in your state. The information below applies only to Illinois, and even if you’re an Illinois resident, you’ll need a lawyer to jump through the hoops.
(Guns Save Life) – The Director of the Illinois State Police or a local court shall restore a felon’s firearm civil rights in Illinois, under the Firearms Owner’s Identification Act under the following conditions, per the FOID Act:
- the applicant has not been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of this State or any other jurisdiction within 20 years of the applicant’s application for a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, or at least 20 years have passed since the end of any period of imprisonment imposed in relation to that conviction;
- the applicant’s criminal history and his reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety;
- granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest; and
- granting relief would not be contrary to federal law.
…The Director shall grant the relief if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest.
There are also similar requirements for individuals convicted of felonies as juveniles.
In cases of more minor, non-violent felonies, this restoration process often occurs with a minimal amount of difficulty if the individual has led a trouble-free life for twenty or more years since the initial conviction or since any incarceration was completed.
Obviously, the burden of proof upon the petitioner will be much higher for individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes, particular those involving the criminal misuse of firearms.
Real world experiences of reformed felons securing carry licenses
by John Boch
In my experiences as a firearms instructor, I have had reformed felons in our GSL Defense Training courses before, with FOID cards in good standing. They usually come to my attention when they call and ask for assistance after they have applied for a Florida carry license and received a rejection letter based upon the felony conviction.
I also know of at least two of these individuals who have gone on to submit supplementary information to Florida about Illinois’ process for restoring firearm civil rights. In each case, the licenses were granted, but then again, the convictions were for non-violent felonies twenty- or thirty-plus years before.
Advice from an attorney
Attorney John Russell, who represented Mark McPherson (see below), offered some informal recommendations to those “who have been on the straight and narrow” and led exemplary lives since their felony troubles ended.
1) Engaging an attorney. Particularly in urban areas, and particularly in Cook County, the judges and the State’s Attorney’s office seem predisposed to oppose any and all FOID card applications from former felons.
2) Realize that the nature of the initial convictions and any subsequent run-ins with the law during the twenty year period will have an effect, and be used by the State’s attorney as evidence of reputation. The applicant really needs to look like a Boy Scout if he hopes to succeed. Violent crimes will make it much more difficult. Any subsequent issues will be used against the applicant.
Realize in places like Cook County, they seem to be looking for any excuse. Any profound character issues could be hard to defend against.
3) A history of community service and community involvement is extremely helpful. It’s easier to convince a judge that someone has truly repaired his reputation when he can point to a lot of objective evidence that adds up to a good reputation.
4) Line up some solid testimony to prove the reputation evidence. Mark had that in spades. Whether its submitted via affidavit, or live, in-court testimony, it helps when reputable, credible, believable people are willing to go to bat for the petitioner. You can’t just have your boss and your mother-in-law.
For more information, feel free to contact Mr. Russell’s office.
John R. Russell, Ltd.
401 East 162nd Street, Suite 203
South Holland, Illinois 60473
john at jrusslaw.com
EVEN IN COOK COUNTY
Reformed felons can get their rights restored
(Guns Save Life) – Meet Mark McPherson, convicted of armed robbery. Twice.
That was another time though. Since then, Mark’s been an exemplary citizen: married, father, business owner, and a volunteer in his community in the twenty-plus years since his release.
He recently completed a nearly three-year fight to regain his firearm civil rights, under the terms of the Firearms Owners Identification Act, in the not-so-gun-friendly confines of Cook County, IL.
He was met was rabid opposition from Cook Co. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office at every turn, but with the help of John Russell, he navigated the process in the courts, thanks in part to his reputation and armed with some superlative character references.
McPherson persisted in a long, expensive journey that included a trip to the First District Appellate Court which slapped down the original Cook County judge, rejecting his opinion, vacating his decision, and remanding it back to the local court for any additional evidence.
At a later hearing, the State merely re-hashed the same evidence as the Appeals Court earlier rejected as insufficient to preclude granting relief in this case. The trial court judge ordered the Illinois State Police to issue the FOID card.