Two new ways in Illinois to take guns out of dangerous hands

Getting the word out about new “red flag law” and fixing the Firearm Owners Identification Card system would save lives.

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Chicago police investigate the scene where one person was killed and four others were wounded in a shooting Saturday in the 6700 block of West Irving Park in the Dunning neighborhood.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois needs to spread the word about a new state law before a repeat of the shocking shooting of five people on Saturday in Chicago’s Dunning neighborhood.

Krysztof Marek, 66, is charged with fatally shooting five neighbors after allegedly leaving a note posted on his door in Polish that translated to “No Mercy!!! Remember, whatever s--- they do to you, you control it yourself not them!! Enough!! They have to pay for it!!”

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The shooting rampage stunned the city, leaving many of us wondering how it could have happened — or been prevented.

What can we do about a man who, according to a woman who lived nearby, was “always very friendly” until about six months ago “when he snapped”? A man who allegedly punched the son of one of the victims two and a half months ago, on Aug. 3?

Until recently, very little.

But Illinois now has a new “red flag” law, enacted in 2018, that gives neighbors and others a potentially effective tool. They can report the behavior to local police, who can check with state police to see if the person has a gun card. Then, based on further investigation, the police can petition to temporarily remove firearms from the home as long as that person is a danger to himself or herself — or to others. Family members also can petition to have guns temporarily removed.

Also under the new law, people who feel they have been unfairly targeted by others — and are really of no danger to themselves or anybody — can make their case to a judge that their firearms should not be taken from them.

Such an intervention, conceivably, could have prevented the shootings on Saturday.

Unfortunately, however, most people, including many police officers, are unaware of the new law. Illinois should amp up efforts to get the word out.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul is leading a statewide effort to do just that. Other agencies — local police departments, counseling organizations and others — should help.

As Mark Jones, senior policy adviser for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, told us, “The big thing is implementation.”

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws.

In San Diego County, which has publicized California’s red flag law, authorities have removed 400 weapons and nearly 80,000 rounds of ammunition since 2017 from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others.

In one case, police took a man’s two handguns, two shotguns and an AR-15 after he allegedly told co-workers he admired the Las Vegas mass shooter and had thought about perpetrating a similar attack at a church or a synagogue. He also said he would kill all his co-workers if he was ever fired.

A second smart gun measure we urge you to support is called “Fix the FOID.” It’s important that the Illinois Legislature approve it later this month during the fall veto session.

The bill, which has passed in the House but been stalled in the Senate, would require applicants for Firearm Owners Identification cards to apply in person and submit fingerprints. It also would reduce the FOID card duration from 10 years to five; require a background check for all gun sales, including those by a private seller, and require state police to remove guns from someone once a FOID card is revoked.

Illinois is among a handful of states that require gun owners to have a FOID card, but the law has loopholes. A man who fatally shot five co-workers and wounded five police officers on Feb. 15 at Henry Pratt Co., in Aurora, was able to buy guns because the current FOID law does not require fingerprinting.

Fingerprinting would have revealed that the shooter, Gary Martin, had a previous felony that would have disqualified him from buying a gun.

An NPR-University of Illinois study released this week shows that 88% of Illinoisans support requiring fingerprints to get a FOID card.

There should be nothing controversial about keeping guns out of the hands of people who, transparently, may be a danger to themselves or others.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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