(Tribune illustration)

SPRINGFIELD — The chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, citing “gun-related tragedies” and the state’s debate over concealed carry, emphasized in a memo to judges throughout Illinois this week that the state must be notified when they determine a person has serious mental health concerns.
Justice Thomas Kilbride underscored the issue in a letter that points out a Jan. 1 law that requires judges to direct circuit clerks to send “immediately” to the Illinois State Police any order that determines a person to be “a mental defective.” 

It comes as Illinois is still attempting to shore up serious gaps in its reporting of people with mental health issues, a discovery that led to the new law. 
Only 39 counties currently are reporting to Illinois State Police, officials said, but that’s a far better number than only the three found in recent years to be reporting.
The Kilbride memorandum comes in the wake of high-profile gun tragedies from the classrooms of Newtown, Conn., to the streets of Chicago. Kilbride’s memo, which included sample forms to fill out, said judges should make sure circuit clerks send orders about people with mental problems to the State Police’s Firearm Owner’s Identification Office, which does background checks and has authority to block the issuance of a firearm permit.
“This issue has received heightened scrutiny in light of recent gun-related tragedies and the current concealed carry debate,” Kilbride wrote in the May 7 memorandum to all circuit and associate judges.
His action marked the latest development in Illinois as the state enters the final weeks of a fervent debate over how to put a concealed carry law on the books. Illinois is the last state in the nation that has a ban in place. Lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a compromise before a June 9 deadline set by a federal appeals court to fashion a new law.
The Illinois House in recent weeks failed on separate votes to pass both a restrictive New York-styled concealed weapons bill and a less-restrictive proposal backed by the National Rifle Association. The results have made both gun control and gun rights advocates recalibrate their next moves.
On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Kwame Raoul, a South Side Democrat, and Sen. Tim Bivins, a former Lee County sheriff who is a Republican and competitive shooter, have been trying to negotiate an alternative. 
Kilbride’s memorandum is topped with a notice to judges that it is regarding “Reporting Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Disqualifiers Due to Mental Health Concerns.”