I was at a recent Guns Save Life meeting in the north end of the state, and as always, I was struck by the knowledge base of the attendees.

These are ordinary people with a keen interest in the legal ownership and use of firearms. They are up to date on all of the myriad of legal issues and pending court cases and are willing to share that information among those gathered. I spent 30 years as a federal agent and before that was an Assistant State’s Attorney, and many meeting attendees have legal and Constitutional knowledge easily rivalling and frequently exceeding my own education and experience about “the law” and firearms.

However, I found a frequent number of “What if” questions being asked at the meeting by a lot of law-abiding gun owners who are genuinely afraid of the ridiculously titled “Protect Illinois Communities Act” (assault weapons ban) and the Large Capacity Magazine Ban.

The law abiding obviously feel their Second Amendment rights are being infringed (squashed/spindled/mutilated/deleted) and despite 10 months since the law passed, no one seems to know how all of it works, or more importantly, how it will be applied by the state.

Looming large over it all, is how the mismanaged State of Illinois can create a situation where millions of lawful gun owners are deemed criminals or putting them in the unique position of having to decide whether to comply or be criminals… all with the stroke of the Governor’s pen.

Here are some of the “What If” questions being asked in the meetings and my thoughts on them. These are my opinions, and not legal advice. I have been an attorney, but I am not your attorney! I have been the police and have talked to the police at my home as a law-abiding citizen, so I have experienced both sides.

“What if the police come to my house asking about my guns?” This was the number one question at the GSL meeting. Here are a couple angles to review. First of all, the police don’t want to come to your house over compliance issues. They have enough to do. The Illinois State Police, an organization I greatly respect, has primary enforcement over this assault/magazine law. They don’t want to persecute people, and do not have enough staff to do even their FOID compliance work out in the field. They won’t be going door to door trying to track down if you have a Ruger 10/22 or a shotgun that can hold more than 5 mini shells. There are millions of guns in Illinois in the hands of responsible and legal gun owners. Millions. Other police agencies can investigate gun crimes too, but again they are pretty busy doing their own daily duties and won’t be tracking down FOID card and assaulty firearms compliance as something to do in their slack time.

One practical aspect of the gun/magazine ban law is it is yet another criminal violation which can be thrown on top of gang bangers who aren’t supposed to have guns, misuse guns, commit armed crimes or other violent crimes. But those criminals don’t follow any of the gun laws anyway and are already committing gun crimes before the new law can be piled on top, so this law lands squarely on law abiding gun owners and is openly gun control for the sake of gun control. No one is arguing the law will prevent the violent carnage going on in the big cities by making gun possession “more illegal” or somehow changing the number of murders going on.

“Well, I repeat, what if the police come to my house asking about my guns?” If they do, they are (a) investigating a crime involving you or someone you know, or (b) they have a search warrant, and like the song says “If you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.” To have a warrant in hand they have had to go through a State’s Attorney’s Office and then put it in front of a Judge and claim probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and evidence of the crime is at the scene they want to search. There is nothing you can do if they have a search warrant or an arrest warrant. You are not entitled to argue the law or the fine points of your innocence at the doorstep if a warrant is presented. You also do not have the right to physically resist the police over something you believe is illegal or wrong. The Constitution does not provide for front yard pseudo lawyers to try their case on the porch, argue or fight the police. You can only fight that in court.

“What if they don’t have a warrant and want to come in?” This is still America…even Chicago. No one is allowed to come into your home without your permission, without a warrant. If you don’t grasp the 4th Amendment provisions against searches and seizures without a warrant, then you can fall back to your basic Vampire lore “Vampires can’t come in unless they are invited.”

“What if they read me my rights and they say it is for my safety?” Someone in your life should have told you by now, if you are read your rights by a police representative then use your rights. Many people believe they can explain things to get out from under the problem and want to cooperate. That is all fine, but remember the phrase “Anything you say can and will be used against you?” Invoke your right to silence or right to speak with an attorney. You can circle back later if you wish to make a formal interview or statement after you have consulted with your lawyer.

Be polite, and 99% of the time the police will be polite as well. They are just doing their job. A simple “No thank you” , “ I have nothing to say. Thank you for stopping by” or “I will have to discuss this with my attorney” will suffice. Most people on the receiving end of a knock will feel courtesy bound to allow the police to come in and provide a place to talk and hear what this business is all about.

Police investigators talk to people every day. They use a pen and paper all day long and rarely their weapon. They seek verbal information to bolster their investigation or develop leads. It’s their job, along with trying to protect society from the bad guys. Understand they may be looking to gather information from you which will hurt you in court. You do not have to speak if you don’t want to. Just say so. “Sorry, I have nothing to say” cannot be held against you. Many people think if they don’t talk things will somehow get worse. Use your rights. Oh, and don’t forget, in the state of Illinois those officers are wearing body cameras which record audio and video of anything you say and can and will be used against you in a court of law as the saying goes.

Most people don’t understand allowing police to come in their house also allows them “plain view” of the area and if they happen to see something they deem to be evidence of a crime or contraband they can seize it immediately…and you.

Any police business can be done at your front step with your door closed behind you even if you feel rude not inviting them in even in bad weather. Under the Constitutional laws as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, your home has strong protections against improper entries and searches. If you are asked for permission to search, you can decline. It’s the rules. The police have to respect your declination.

You do not have to consent to a mere request for search. Do you know how police nab up those big drug dealers on the interstates hauling drugs or guns so frequently? They ask the driver for consent to search, and those criminals give permission…even knowing they have a trunk full of contraband! Why do they do it? Psychologically they know they are guilty, but if they turn down the police request for a consent search, they fear it will make them look “more suspicious.” Criminal human nature.

“What if the police say they will just go get a warrant and come back?” Technically at law they can’t guarantee to you they can obtain a warrant. It must go through the State’s Attorneys office process and then get presented and reviewed by a state judge to ensure evidence of a crime and probable cause is disclosed as required by law before the judge will sign a search warrant. What you may hear is “Well we can go apply for a warrant.” That is a technically correct statement at law, and you can stand on your polite declination and tell them to have a nice day.

The police are not against you personally, but this gun and magazine ban law has exposed a Constitutional root and gun owners are feeling personally singled out by the state government. “Sir we are taking your car away.” Why? “Well, your neighbor got drunk and hurt some people with his car, so we are taking yours away too.” But I don’t drink and drive! “Well, we have enough votes to claim we are protecting everyone based upon woke feelings in the aftermath of some tragedies which already had laws prohibiting them, so that is certainly good enough reason for you to comply.”

“What if my gun can be considered to be on the list of prohibited guns and I don’t even know it?” This law is a mishmash of gun ban laws from New Jersey and California with a few Chicago items thrown in and despite listing 170 specific guns is terribly vague when it comes to definitions.

The state police held hearings a month ago at three locations to field some questions from the public about what the law actually means and how it will be applied. I happened to watch one of those meetings online and in my view, instead of answering very valid questions, it just highlighted all the problems with the definitions in the law.
After getting worn out by legitimate gun questions posed by the public, I am surprised the state showed up for all three meetings. The meeting I watched, was hosted by what appeared to be an attorney type (maybe from the Attorney General’s Office?), flanked by a State Police Captain and another man in a suit and tie. Only the attorney type spoke.

The attorney heard live questions from witnesses, and she showed a deep lack of understanding about all the nuances of the law and problems the law abiding are trying to comply with. Good questions were asked about mini shotgun shells- any shotgun with a magazine can hold more than five, is it now an “assault weapon?” She had never heard of such a thing. If a pistol can take a 17 round mag and a 15 round mag is in the pistol is it still prohibited due to the ability to hold the 17 round? If a shotgun has an extended magazine tube, is it an “assault weapon” if the tube does not meet the definition of the law of an extended magazine ala it can be installed without tools? (Lawyer said no. Law pretty much says yes.)

The state’s lawyer type had a constant and consistent string of answers like “Put your question in writing…and we will try to respond” (which is classic diversion with no promise to actually deliver, “there is no try” someone famous once said. Do or do not.) Other great answers from the government official included “We have not thought of that” and “Well that is for the courts to decide” and finally “Well that is not for the state police to decide.”

“What if the law is deemed unconstitutional?” I hope so. However, watching the many lawsuits go up and down in the state and federal courts challenging the Illinois law, it is now clear it will take years pursuing it in the courts to get a final decision about constitutionality. It is hard to keep track of all the suits going on, and one week we seem to be gaining traction, and the next week we see losses in different courts.
A distressing trend is lower courts across the nation don’t seem to be honoring the verbiage in the U.S. Supreme Court Bruen decision, and liberal judges are not citing or honoring decisions in other districts that have pro-gun findings. The state of New York got bad law knocked down this year, so they wrote another bad law…knowing it will be knocked down later, but “We are doing something” and can tout it to their constituents.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a gun rights case this past month (a rare thing at that level) and we may get more clarity…but anticipate Illinois to stand by their liberal voted state law until it is finally struck down at a high-level court like the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal courts overturned the ATF backed wrist brace law in Novermber and the ATF 80% frame “rule.” Hurray. But Illinois still has a no Ghost Gun/80%/no serial number law on the books.

State legislators and the Governor are very anti-gun right now, so who can we expect to defend the core value laws? Hard to depend upon the state court system after seeing the Governor donated $1 million each to two State Supreme Court Justices for their reelection campaigns. Oh, and the Chief Justice for the Illinois Supreme Court? Her husband, a former Chicago alderman is in federal court at trial on corruption charges. His legal team has stalled the trial for nearly five years…and yes his wife was promoted to Chief Justice of the Illinois State Supreme Court while he was under federal indictment for corruption. Illinois. Only in Illinois…and maybe Ukraine, Russia or Louisiana!

“What if I don’t want to register my guns by December 31st?” This was probably the second most asked question at the GSL meeting. People just don’t know the answers to how all of this is going to work. Even after reading the law several times, I am still unclear on how it will work. State Attorney General Kwami Raoul was quoted saying “Well it’s the law” and expects everyone to support and comply.
The law grandfathers in your “bad guns” and high-capacity magazines, as long as you do the state registration by New Year’s Eve. You can keep them at home or take them to an identified shooting range and back. No “Free to move about the country” jazz.

If you are caught and convicted with a non-registered weapon or high cap magazine next year it is a misdemeanor. A second such conviction is a felony. The law also allows you to store your guns out of state, destroy them or turn them in to the police for destruction. Fanciful thinking there. Remember the NJ magazine ban? Not a single magazine was turned in to police. Zero percent compliance.

The Illinois State Police opened the registration portal online in October, a month ago, and in the first two weeks .001% of firearms were actually registered. Here in December I just saw the compliance with registration now stands at .1%…so not actually zero compliance, just one tenth of a percent over zero.

Gun owners are obviously hoping for a court ruling to declare the laws unconstitutional before New Year’s Eve. But many people I have talked to have just had enough and are saying they will not register. What other law in the history of this state has had this level of threatened non-compliance? What other law magically turned over one million law abiding citizens into potential criminals?

“What if, after guns are registered, they pass a new law to make all of those guns illegal to own?” This has been a very real fear for gun owners. Once they are all located and kept in the state database, they have the votes to ram it through and now they know where to find all of those guns. It worked in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and in China- registration was just the first step to confiscation.

Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood this will actually happen in Illinois. The Democrats have the votes in both houses and with the Governor to completely ban all of the weapons they care to name, and the Republican side can’t stop it. I have heard a rumor, just such a proposed bill to completely ban all “bad guns” even those registered, is already being held by a state representative who is waiting for the legislature to go back into session, and they can introduce it. Another fresh rumor is they will ram a bill through which will lay out a scheme to “call in” all dangerous type weapons identified via registration the next time there is a mass shooting tragedy (different than the daily and weekly Chicago regular type mass shootings.)

Hard times indeed when you are trying to stay within the law with your personal property which is actually named in the U.S. Constitution as deserving of protection- so much so, the founding fathers wrote it into and the Bill of Rights.

“What if the law is found to be unconstitutional-will they give seized guns back?” Many people in the GSL meeting laughed when they heard this question. Gone is gone.

“What if the guns purchased while the law was held up by a judge’s order are illegal to own?” There was a period of about 6 days this spring when a judge ruled a temporary halt to the law. Many guns and magazines were sold in Illinois. The state police later put out word (word not law) those items were illegal to purchase (despite the federal injunction precluding enforcement of the law) and under their wish on how to apply the law, those guns and magazines purchased during those protected 6 days could not be registered or made to be legal.

You were advised by the ISP to take them out of state, destroy them or turn them in. This of course was not “law” or an administrative rule, it was just what the state police released in a statement. During the recent state police public meetings, the same question was asked and the figurehead said “Well that is for the courts to decide, not the state police.” Hard to put a lot of trust in those two answers “we are telling you it’s wrong” combined with “we can’t tell you it’s wrong.”

This is truly a worrisome time for legal gun owners. Again, these are just some observations and thoughts I had from the questions presented and are not legal advice for you personally. Do your own homework. Read the law. Talk to your State’s Attorneys office or local law enforcement with questions. Turns out they are not all in step with this “new good idea woke state law” either. It’s Lawfare I tell you, just like warfare except they are using legislation as the weapon. Lawfare.

18 thoughts on “The “What Ifs” Loom Large in Illinois. Registration Questions Everywhere”
  1. Put me down as another thumbs up for “this article is outstanding”. I also appreciate that it comes from someone who was an attorney and a prosecutor in addition to a federal cop. You can’t buy credentials like those. A Supreme Court seat, maybe. Those creds? Not yet anyway.

  2. By directing / ordering subordinates to take enforcement action, until the constitutional issues with this legislation are resolved, we could envision major labor law issues within the rank-and-file (opening another legal morass). Ordering someone to violate another’s constitutional right(s), or jeopardize their qualified immunity, is not a well-reasoned decision, likely not legal, or within one’s oath of office. Thanks Mr. Keleher for a good post.

  3. Excellent article!!! I can interpret the law for you all. If in doubt, it is illegal. What ISP says today is irrelevant. They can change their “interpretation” at any time, just like ATF did with bump stocks, ghost guns and now what is a dealer.

    Suppose they come to your door with or without a warrant and decide your .22 rifle is an assault weapon because the barrel is threaded on one end. You know this is wrong, but what can you do? They barge in citing “exigent circumstances” and take your guns. If you object, they will arrest you for resisting a police officer, even though they know the charges will be dropped later. They could take all your guns and you would never have them back, no matter how frivolous the reason given. And what if they have the wrong address? This happens with alarming frequency. Innocent people have been shot to death at the wrong address. Police have “Qualified Immunity” a principal invented by SCOTUS and used too often to let police skate.

    I want to make a prediction, and I hope I am wrong. Pritzker and all the other BLue states will ignore SCOTUS and pass and enforce all the gun bans they want forever and a day. Dealers will be afraid to follow SCOTUS when they know ISP can shut them down today. Law abiding gun owners will live in a constant state of limbo not knowing whether they are legal or not. SCOTUS has not physical way to enforce their findings. Remember Andrew Jackson? He said SCOTUS has made their decision, now let them enforce it. Laws only bind the law abiding.

    The anti gunners have created a world where we fear the police more than criminals. God help us!

    1. “Fear” is the easiest way to “control” the populace, look at how that worked with the China virus that Fauci and the communist party developed with American’s taxes funds, the scum-bass-turds!

  4. KUDOS, and an extra piece of raisin pie for Michael Keleher for this broad ranging information!
    Do not “register” anything, do not even consider discussing YOUR firearms with law enforcement, state attorney because that will bring attention to you and the possibility you might, could have maybe what “they” declare are “assault weapons”. At the national level the democRATS are trying to declare any and all semi-auto firearms as “assault weapons” because they can fire ammunition at a “rapid” rate.
    Pray for America, pray that God will destroy the evil ones trying to destroy our once great country. TRUMP 2024 MAKE AMERICA GREAT, AGAIN!

    1. Thanks for writing in 1589. I have never seen a time like this where so many people must live in fear of their government.

    1. I am available. Hostile, agile, mobile if it helps someone. Invite me!
      Will be speaking at the GSL North meeting 07FEB 2024

  5. Most excellent Michael. One article of advice. DO NOT open your door and talk to the police on your porch. Open a window and speak with them in this manner. DO NOT give any opportunity for an entry or a ‘misunderstanding’ of consent.

    1. I have a Ring doorbell. And I have access to my widowed DIL house’s Ring system in Annandale, VA. I can speak to anyone at any of the three doors from my phone and do not have to be in the house. Seems this might be a useful feature for some of us. I am sure other systems have similar capabilities. I do like the RIng system.

Comments are closed.