Maxon Shooters Blog

Just How Low is Compliance with the AWB Registry?

Just How Low is Compliance with the AWB Registry?

Update 6:00 pm January 10

Egads! We are spreading "Disinformation" according to the Governor. I guess we have his attention.  We attempt in this post to measure the scale of non-compliance because we don't have the actual numbers.

Guess what? He does. The ISP could tell him what proportion of FOID cards have been used in a background check inquiry (because of a firearm purchase). Heck, they could even tell him how many "rifle" inquiries versus others.  But if they have, he's not talking.  Why not?  Because this registry has been rejected overwhelmingly by Illinois gun owners and the numbers are, or at least should be, embarrassing for him.

He goes on to claim that Illinois is safer because the law-abiding cannot purchase certain firearms, magazines, and accessories.  Pray tell, Mr. Governor, how is Illinois made safer by disarming the most law-abiding cohort in society, with a law that doesn't target the law-breakers?

Again from the Washington Post: "Lawful gun owners commit less than a fifth of all gun crimes, according to a novel analysis released this week (2016) by the University of Pittsburgh."...  "They found that in approximately 8 out of 10 cases, the perpetrator was not a lawful gun owner but rather in illegal possession of a weapon that belonged to someone else. The researchers were primarily interested in how these guns made their way from a legal purchase β€” at a firearm dealer or via a private sale β€” to the scene of the crime."

Release the numbers, Mr. Governor.

Wash Post; can't get past paywall this time, but you can search: New evidence confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime.

Update 4:30 PM January 8

It has been pointed out in some comments that there are households where one individual holds a FOID and owns a firearm and another family member also has a FOID just for legal/safety reasons.  That's fair, but even if every gun owning FOID holder has an accompanying non-owning FOID holder, which seems absurd, comliance is a pitiful 8.4%.

It appears to us that compliance with the PICA affidavit (AWB Registry) was astonishingly low, much lower than the already low rates of compliance in other states like New York and Connecticut.  Here's our estimate of compliance and why we think it is so low.

How Many "Assault Weapon" Owners Live in Illinois? 

Some Facts and Data:

  • There are 2.4 million FOID holders in Illinois.  This is a reasonable proxy for number of gun owners.
  • Surveys of gun owners conducted by the Washington Post last year estimated 20% of gun owners own an AR-15 style rifle (The WaPo article is behind a paywall. Click here if the link above doesn't work.)  Other studies indicate as many as 30% of gun owners have an AR-15 style rifle.
  • There is no reason to presume that the Illinois rates of AR-15 ownership differ from the national averages.
  • 20% of 2.4 million people is approximately 500,000 AR-15 owners.
  • The Illinois State Police (ISP) received affidavits for their registry from 29,357 individuals. (the ISP reportedly said there are more to be processed, but as of this writing, the totals have not changed)
  • That math works out to an estimated 5.9% Compliance

But Wait: The Real Compliance Rate is Lower!

That Washington Post study examined only AR-15 rifles.  Sponsors of and advocates for this bill have bragged about how broad it is. So beyond the 500,000 AR-15 rifle owners in Illinois, other effected owners include those that have:
  • AR Pistols
  • AK-47 rifles and pistols
  • Half the catalog of Ruger 10/22 rifles (there have been 7 million 10/22's made)
  • Many shotguns
  • Pistols with threaded barrels
  • Some of the 30,000 NFA items in Illinois not owned by law enforcement or FFL's.

At Maxon, we used sell approximately 5 AR style rifles for each AK patterned rifle, so add another 100,000 to the list of banned rifle owners.

We're now at 600,000 owners.

Let's say that with the other banned guns, that adds another 20% to the AR owning count.

We're now at 700,000 owners. 

That is an estimated 4.2% Compliance.

Why We Believe Compliance Is So Low:

Ignorance of the law and civil disobedience are the drivers we are seeing in non-compliance.

We still get calls from Illinois gun owners asking what needs to be registered and by when, and is there a grace period.  This confusion is understandable because the Act and the rules and "explainers" from the State Police are a mess, often contradicting themselves. 
And the ISP did a very bad job of letting gun owners know the requirements of this act.  They have the mailing address of every FOID holder and could have mailed some notice to all a long time ago.  But they didn't. 
Does it sound like a good idea to register after the deadline in the act, memorializing your now-unlawful possession as defined in the Act?
It sounds like a terrible idea to us. It is not obvious from where the ISP derives the authority to modify the Act's language, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.
The Department says it won't pursue criminal charges against late affidavits, but does this prevent an anti-gun Cook or Lake County State's Attorney from doing so?  
Put these failures, sloppy work product, and mis-steps together, and it's easy to see that nobody knows with complete certainty what and when registration affidavits must be filed.  Even those tasked with enforcement don't seem to understand the requirements of this act.
  • The Office of the Lake County State's Attorney posted a notice on its facebook page warning law-abiding citizens that they must register their assault weapons and high-capacity magazines by December 31.  
  • The Governor is on camera warning law-abiding citizens that they must register their automatic and semi-automatic rifles and magazines.

There is no requirement to register magazines, and the act does not mention full-auto. Yes, if a full auto is a selective fire device, the semi-auto capability would require registration, but it's obvious that these politicians have no idea what they are talking about.

Civil Disobedience is the other big driver of non-compliance. 

Nearly every county sheriff and most of the county State's Attorneys have stated that they will not enforce this Act.  Residents of those counties have little incentive to register.

The act is highly offensive to otherwise law-abiding Illinois gun owners.  It is a mess of legislation put into law:

  • by individuals who know little to nothing about firearms
  • who are willfully ignorant of the difference between lawful ownership and criminal misuse of firearms
  • and who abused (again) the proper process for introducing and debating bills, jamming this through in the middle of the night on the last day of the 102nd General Assembly.
The great Milton Friedman is said to have remarked: 

β€œThe British follow all the laws, good and bad, the French ignore all the laws, and the Americans follow the good ones and ignore the bad ones"

Non-compliance with unjust laws: It's as American as apple pie.

What's Next:

Here we have a Governor who is said to have aspirations to higher (national) office, yet his signature piece of legislation is being met with mass non-compliance.

Here we have a department of State Police who can't tell you what to register or when, and whose opinions are largely irrelevant as compared to those of the prosecutors and judges who would be charging and trying anyone with PICA violations.

We live in interesting times.

In our next post, we will outline the  likely path and timetable through the courts, and we remain confident as plaintiffs in court against this law that it will be overturned.

Stay tuned.

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