Columnist Gets Gun I.D. Card for Son -- Who is 10 Months Old

By: Someday, Howard David Ludwig's Firearm Owner's Identification Card will be stored in a box with his first pair of shoes and perhaps a lock of his baby hair.

That's because the card was issued when Howard, nicknamed Bubba, was just 10 months old. It lists his height (2 feet, 3 inches) and weight (20 pounds) but doesn't note he's yet to learn how to walk.

With some exceptions, FOID cards are required of any Illinois residents purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition within the state.

The card wasn't a mistake. Bubba's father, a columnist for The (Tinley Park) Daily Southtown who is also named Howard Ludwig, paid the $5 fee and filled out the application.

Still, the card's arrival, complete with his son's toothless baby photo, surprised him.

Ludwig expected instead to receive a letter, he joked Tuesday, that read: "Thanks for your five bucks. You're an idiot. We're not sending your kid a FOID card."

Illinois State Police oversee the application process for the cards. Their purpose, said Lt. Scott Compton, was to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, those under an active order of protection and those convicted of domestic violence.

"Does a 10-month-old need a FOID card? No, but there are no restrictions under the act regarding age of applicants," he said.

Ludwig, 30, of Chicago, writes a weekly column about parenting and chronicled the path that led to his son's FOID card in Sunday's newspaper.

His own father has taken up trap shooting as a hobby, and wanted to buy his grandson a special gift that could turn into a family heirloom.

He settled on a 12-gauge Beretta shotgun, although Ludwig says his wife thought footed pajamas or a contribution toward the child's college education might be more appropriate.

Ludwig's father intends to have the shotgun engraved with Bubba's full name. He'll probably keep possession of the firearm in his home in Chicago's suburbs until his grandson is at least 14. That's the age that Ludwig and his wife agreed upon as an appropriate time for Bubba to go out shooting with his grandfather.

Ludwig doesn't own a gun himself, but thought he should have a FOID card for the occasional instances when he goes trap shooting with his father. While filling out his own application, his curiosity prompted him to fill out one for his son, as well.

The application got sent back twice, the first time because Ludwig forgot to check the box that said Bubba was a U.S. citizen, the second because he forgot to specify he was Bubba's father.

Following a third application, the card arrived about two weeks ago.

Children are not allowed to purchase firearms under state law. In Illinois, one must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a long gun and at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun.

Unless specifically exempted by statute, any Illinois resident who acquires or possesses a firearm or firearm ammunition within the state must have in their possession a valid FOID card issued in his or her name.

However, residents under the age of 21 are among those exempt, as long as their parent or whoever is supervising the youngster while he has a gun possesses a valid FOID card, Compton said. And FOID applicants under 21 must have the written permission of their parent or guardian, he said.

The only case he could think of where a young person would need a FOID card would be if a group of older teens went hunting on their own, without an adult's supervision. But he said such a case would also start to intersect with state laws on hunting licenses.

Ludwig said Tuesday that while he took a humorous slant on the situation in his newspaper column, he thinks it's important to note that "Illinois is kind of tough on gun laws."

Unlike the FOID card system in Illinois, some states do not require any kind of permit or license, Ludwig said, leaving firearm ownership up to federal laws.

"It seems kind of silly to give (a FOID card) to an infant, but a lot of states don't check to see if there is a criminal background," he said.


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