Most owners of assault-style weapons in Illinois appear not to have registered them as required by law
Most owners of assault-style weapons in Illinois appear not to have registered their guns in order to legally keep them.
But there are minimal consequences for failing to register, and whether the law is even enforced likely depends heavily on where you live and how authorities discover an unregistered gun.
The state banned assault-style weapons a year ago, but allowed people to keep the ones they already possessed — provided they register them before Jan. 1, 2024.
Only 1% of people with firearm owners identification cards in the state had registered by the deadline, according to the Illinois State Police. Just over 29,000 people reported nearly 69,000 weapons as of Dec. 31, according to the state police. There are 2.5 million FOID holders in Illinois.
It’s not known how many FOID holders possess guns now banned in Illinois, but gun sellers and others say they believe tens of thousands of legal gun owners were likely turned into scofflaws overnight on New Year’s Day.
Roger Krahl, owner of the retail store RGuns in Carpentersville, is one of them.
“I’ve registered none of my personal weapons,” Krahl, who said he owns “at least one” firearm meeting the state’s definition, told the Sun-Times.
AR-style firearms previously made up 80% of Krahl’s sales. He said he sold tens of thousands of AR-style weapons in the years before the ban went into effect.
“I would be amazed if we didn’t have 10 million” guns in Illinois that the state has defined as assault weapons, said Krahl, a gun owner since the age of 11 who believes the ban is unconstitutional.
The Protecting Illinois Communities Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Jan. 10 last year, was passed six months after a gunman killed seven people and wounded 48 others when he opened fire with a legally purchased military-style rifle at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.
The act immediately banned the sale of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns styled after military weapons, as well as some pistols, large-capacity magazines and certain gun parts, such as folding stocks or muzzle flash suppressors that make the guns more concealable.
Anyone who possessed those items before the law was signed could keep them if they registered them. Illinois State Police didn’t open a portal for registration until October, leaving gun owners only a few months to come into compliance.
State police said Thursday the portal remains open, but the agency was vague on the consequences of registering after the deadline, saying the law “does not set forth penalties for late submissions.”
“Decisions on how to enforce PICA will be up to each law enforcement and prosecutorial jurisdiction within Illinois,” a spokeswoman for the state police said in an email to the Sun-Times.
That guidance would appear to put owners who missed the deadline in a difficult position: Register late and acknowledge you missed the deadline, or risk never coming into compliance at all.
“You’d basically be saying you have an illegal weapon,” said Robert Bevis, owner of Naperville’s Law Weapons and Supply. “I personally wouldn’t do it,” he said of registering after the deadline.
Bevis, who is suing to overturn the ban, said he is offering to store a customer’s guns for them while the ban is being appealed.
Another option is to sell a customer a bolt for their AR-style rifle. Bolt-action rifles require a user to manually reload each time they want to fire, and are legal under the state’s law. If installed on an AR15-style rifle, it would make the rifle compliant with Illinois law — and then easily swapped out if the ban is overturned.
Bevis said some gun owners aren’t even aware they need to register many tactical-styled shotguns, as well as pistols that feature a threaded barrel.
He criticized the state for not doing more to publicize the registration requirements, saying lawmakers “could have made commercials. They could have sent a letter to every FOID card holder. They didn’t do it.”
In online forums, many gun owners have stated they are unconcerned about the consequences of not registering. A first offense is a misdemeanor in Illinois, though repeat offenses, or selling the weapons, can amount to a felony.
Depending on where they live, many doubt they would be charged with anything. Dozens of sheriffs in Illinois have publicly said they will not enforce the gun ban.
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick was one of them, though he later said he would enforce the state’s law after facing censure and after he said he learned that compliance checks would not be part of the state law.