To the extent it’s possible to discuss gun legislation without immediate retreat to entrenched partisan positions, consider House Bill 5769.
State Rep. Mark Batinick, a Plainfield Republican, filed the bill Friday. He explained the Firearm Owner Identification Card Act stipulates those younger than 21 can only get a FOID card with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian who also is eligible.
“The mass shootings that plague our nation and state regularly are stealing the lives of our loved ones, neighbors and children,” Batinick wrote in a release. “HB 5769 will help us hold parents criminally liable in Illinois for any damages resulting from the firearm, firearms or ammunition in which they consented for their child under the age of 21 to have the FOID card to purchase. We need to take gun safety seriously and ensure that our younger adults are prepared, trained and fit to own a firearm by adding this layer of accountability for parents consenting.”
He further explained state law already make adults liable for damages in civil court following use of guns or ammunition by someone 21 or younger, but his bill would add criminal liability. And, by extension, increased forethought for parents.
“This is practical legislation we can apply to increase firearm safety awareness and awareness of the consequences of firearm damages,” Batinick said. “This is a way to help make our communities safer and ensure kids under 21 and their parents fully consent to the great responsibility of owning firearms.”
It might seem this idea has a lot in common with the 2011 law imposing criminal liability on adults who allow underage drinking in their homes, with penalties that include a Class 4 felony depending on circumstances. That’s fair to the extent it seems intended to leverage the influence of adults with more to lose – and theoretically more developed cost-benefit analysis – but it also spotlights the different ways we regulate guns and alcohol.
The drinking age is 21. The only exception is supervised, at-home consumption, and no minor can ever legally purchase alcohol. There are more circumstances under which younger Illinoisans can handle guns, frequently in a hunting context. As Batinick explained, the FOID law allows gun ownership if certain conditions are met.
Batinick’s idea lands in a sort of middle ground between the people who advocate increasing the minimum age for ownership of certain guns and those who would eradicate the FOID entirely. Its effects would be difficult to quantify, which might be ideal for lawmakers who favor incremental change.
State Reps. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, and Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, are co-sponsors. The bipartisanship bodes well for the bill’s chances, but this proposal isn’t likely to satisfy the most ardent gun regulation advocates.