An article was recently published in The State Journal-Register regarding an Illinois lawmaker who recently proposed legislation designed to keep firearms out of the hands of certain criminals and mentally ill individuals. It also prohibits people on the FBI terror watch list from possessing guns in Illinois.
It is hard to disagree with the logic behind such a law, but I have to take issue with one aspect of the proposed bill. According to the article, it will ban people convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms. While I do not disagree entirely with such a suggestion, it brings up a problem with the domestic violence laws (domestic assaults are felonies in Illinois) in Illinois generally.
The penalties for domestic battery in Illinois are stricter than those for a simple battery, that is, one that does not involve a person with whom the offender has a domestic relationship as defined by law. I understand the idea behind the harsher penalties, however there needs to some sort of safety valve that takes into account the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history including misdemeanors.
The reason a safety valve is important is that the law as written lumps together, for example, a woman who lightly shoves her estranged spouse during an argument and a man who routinely gets drunk and beats his family mercilessly. In both instances, the subjects broke the law and should be punished, but it is a matter of degree. As it is, there are diversion programs in some counties that functions as a safety valve, but if a person happens to offend in a county without such a program, s/he is out of luck. The only other option is to hope the State is willing to amend the charge to another offense that does not carry the same penalties, but that is completely within the discretion of the prosecutor.
Because the current law puts such drastically different scenarios in the same boat legally speaking, a blanket ban on those convicted of domestic battery from possessing firearms may be a little misguided. While I certainly do not mean to sound sympathetic to domestic batterers, some mechanism is needed to differentiate individuals and individual cases before imposing on people’s Second Amendment rights.