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Travis Reinking, the Waffle House Shooter (Part 1 of 2): Should His Guns Have Been Returned to His Father in the First Place?

Lots of things make us unique in Illinois. Some good. Some bad. In Illinois, it is unlawful to possess a firearm or firearm ammunition without a Firearm Owner's Identification Card. That card—and constitutional right to firearms—can be taken away, however, both under Illinois and federal law.

As of the time of writing this blog, we know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested that Reinking's firearms be taken away, and that the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department seized four firearms from Reinking's apartment. We also know that the Sheriff's Department returned the firearms to Reinking's father.

In the wake of the shooting, reporters everywhere scrambled to try to understand Illinois' gun laws. I personally spoke with reporters from the Associated Press, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post to explain gun laws in the State of Illinois to them. The articles published later failed to mention their reporters' conversations with me, but at least the articles were accurate, which can't be said of every article addressing the issue.

What many news articles guessed about, and one of the many topics discussed with reporters from the Associated Press, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post, was the return of Reinking's firearms to his father. Many readers might ask how this could have occurred in light of what we know now. The answer is simple: police can't take you property just because.

A person could be subject to what is commonly called a federal or state "firearms prohibition," but that does not mean that police can just take someone's property away. Police can take property when it's been used in the commission of a crime, such as Driving while Under the Influence (or "DUI") or offenses involving drugs, but barring a crime occurring that involved a firearm, police can't just take them. Police are allowed under Illinois law to seize someone's firearms whenever that person is subject to a firearms prohibition, whether under federal or Illinois law, but they don't keep them forever.

To the contrary, firearms under Illinois law are governed by lots of laws. With Reinking's case, the Firearm Owner's Identification Card Act came into play. It can be found at 430 ILCS 65/et seq. Under that act, whenever police seize firearms because a person's FOID card was revoked, such as when they became subject to a firearms prohibition, those firearms can be lawfully returned to a family member. Obviously, to obtain them, that person must also have a valid FOID card.

It makes sense that there would be a protocol for the return of firearms, but there really is not one. Different law enforcement agencies work differently, and people seeking the return of their firearms often run into problems when it comes to this. Whether or not the return of those firearms to Reinking by his father is or is not a crime is the subject of Part 2 in this series.

Copyright © 2018 by Brendan Bukalski

The information provided in this column is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship . As a general rule, all specific legal problems should be handled by an individual's attorney. All rights reserved. Any copying, duplication, or commercial use of the information contained in this column is strictly prohibited without prior permission.