SPRINGFIELD— The Illinois Supreme Court is being asked to consider the laws of the state of California and the U.S. Constitution in ruling on one man’s eligibility to be issued a Firearm Owners Identification card by the Illinois State Police.
The high court heard oral arguments Thursday morning in Springfield in Thomas Brown v. the Illinois State Police, a case in which Brown is seeking to have his FOID rights restored so that he can participate in target shooting, hunting and be able to defend himself, according to a court filing.
Brown was a FOID card- holder for several years, most recently applying for and being granted renewal in 2013. But in 2016, he tried to purchase a gun at a federal firearm licensee, leading the Illinois State Police to conduct a background check. That unearthed a 2001 conviction in California on a “misde- meanor offense of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse” that he did not disclose on his FOID application, according to a filing before the Supreme Court.
In that case, Brown and his then-wife had an argument in a parking lot, after which Brown picked her up, accord- ing to the court filing, and she ended up “crawling down his back” and sustaining “minor road rash,” for which she did not seek medical attention.
After Brown spent three days in jail, he eventually pleaded guilty and paid an
approximately $500 because, according to the court filing, “otherwise it would have cost him $5,000 to bail out of jail so that he could fight the case and he was advised by the company that he worked for at the time to take the plea bargain.”
While Brown’s lawyer ques- tioned whether he knew the arrangement would affect his gun rights, the conviction ulti- mately qualified as a misde- meanor crime of domestic vio- lence, prohibiting Brown from possessing a firearm under federal law. Because Illinois’ FOID Act states that a card may not be issued “contrary to federal law,” the State Police revoked his card upon the failed background check.
Federal law does, however, allow exceptions for gun ownership if a person convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor has had their “civil rights restored” in the jurisdiction that convicted them – in this case, California.
In a 2020 case, Johnson v. the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Supreme Court rule