State Police broaden scope of 'clear and present danger' reports after Highland Park shooting

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois State Police announced Monday they will start using a broader definition of what constitutes a "clear and present danger" when reviewing a person's Firearm Owners Identification card.

That's a factor the state police consider when deciding whether to grant someone a card or to revoke or suspend a card that has already been issued.

The change is meant to address gaps in the process that were identified in the wake of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park. The suspect in that case had been the subject of a clear and present danger investigation, but under standards used at that time, state police determined there was insufficient evidence to support such a determination.

"These changes will immediately allow ISP to see a fuller picture of an applicant's history and keep the people of Illinois safe from those who should not be in possession of firearms," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.

Under current law, known as the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act, state police can deny a FOID card application or suspend or revoke an existing card for any person deemed to pose a clear and present danger of harming themselves or someone else.

Under that statute, a physician, clinical psychologist or other qualified examiner can classify someone as a clear and present danger if he or she "communicates a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or poses a clear and imminent risk of serious physical injury to himself, herself, or another person."

They can also be classified as a clear and present danger if they demonstrate "threatening physical or verbal behavior such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions or other behavior, as determined by a physician, clinical psychologist, qualified examiner, school administrator, or law enforcement official."

That law requires physicians, clinical psychologists, law enforcement officers and school administrators to promptly report any such behavior to the state police.

In 2013, however, Illinois State Police filed administrative rules that provide a stricter, more limiting definition. Those rules defined a clear and present danger as someone who poses "an actual, impending, or imminent threat of substantial bodily harm to themselves or another person that is articulable and significant or who will be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety or contrary to the public interest if they were granted access to a weapon."

Illinois State Police said the new rules announced Monday will revert to the original, statutory definition, allowing them to consider a broader range of information when determining whether someone poses a clear and present danger.

The 2013 rule also prohibited state police from maintaining report records of people who are not determined to be a clear and present danger. The new rules would require them to maintain those records.

The state police adopted the new definitions through what are known as "emergency rules." That's allowed under state law when an agency determines it needs to take swift action to protect public interest, safety or welfare. But those rules are still subject to review by the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, whose next scheduled meeting is Aug. 17.

Illinois State Police will submit the changes to JCAR in the form of permanent rules through the regular rule-making process as well.

In September 2019, according to state police, the Highland Park Police Department filed a clear and present danger report regarding the man who is now charged in the Highland Park shooting, indicating he had made threats to his family.

When police went to the suspect's home, both he and his mother denied there had been any threat of violence, and the suspect told police he did not feel like hurting himself or others. The reviewing officer concluded there was insufficient evidence, under the standards in place, to support a clear and present danger determination.

At the time of that incident, the suspect had not applied for a FOID card. Roughly three months later, however, he did apply for a FOID card and, because he was only 19 at the time, his father sponsored his application.

When his application was reviewed in January 2020, according to the state police, there was insufficient information to deny his application on the basis that he posed a clear and present danger.

Last week, state Rep. Mark Batinick, a Plainfield Republican, filed legislation that would hold parents criminally liable for damages caused by their minor children whenever the parent consents to their child getting a FOID card. As of Monday, it had two co-sponsors, one Republican and one Democrat.

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