SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – House Republicans say it’s time for the Pritzker administration to address the major delays for FOID cards and concealed carry licenses (CCL).
The lawmakers said some constituents have waited over a year to receive their renewed or initial FOID cards and CCLs. They argued Illinois should eliminate the FOID program entirely if the state can’t operate it efficiently.
Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) says Gov. JB Pritzker should fix the issue or let lawmakers return to Springfield to create solutions.
“To force this to the legal realm that people have to pay attorneys to try and challenge this to enforce their rights is just ridiculous. And, I think that’s why we’re calling for action from the legislature,” Bourne said. “We can do this. Let us do our jobs, let us fix it.”
Bourne stressed residents shouldn’t have to sue their own government to practice their constitutional right to bear arms. Illinois State Police say processing FOID applications usually takes 121 days, while the average for concealed carry applications is 145. According to state law, FOID applications should process within 60 days. ISP Director Brendan Kelly says the department needs help from lawmakers to cut down even more of the backlog.
“The Illinois State Police will keep pushing hard, but frankly we will need authority from the legislature to untangle, streamline and integrate the aging patchwork of FOID, concealed carry, firearms transactions, and records checks if we are going to fulfill this mission,” Kelly stated.
Gun control debate
Rep. CD Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) feels the Second Amendment is a lot like the First Amendment. He says legal, safe gun owners shouldn’t have their rights taken away if others don’t want guns.
“That’s where the difference of opinion is. You’ve got one side that wants to pretend like that right doesn’t exist,” Davidsmeyer explained. “And you’ve got our side who wants to fight for and make sure that we protect those freedoms.”
While Republicans aim to eliminate the FOID program, they know it’s highly unlikely the Democratic supermajority would let that happen.
“The legislature should immediately pass reforms to ensure Illinoisans can exercise their Second Amendment rights without unnecessary delays in the FOID and concealed carry card process,” said Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis). “Let’s get to work in Springfield to address these delays and provide appropriate service to our citizens.”
Creating a solution
Rep. Mike Marron (R-Fithian) emphasized this problem long pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. Marron said Democrats took $28 million out of the Firearms Services Fund which was made to help expand the FOID program. However, Gov. JB Pritzker pushed the blame on former Republican governor Bruce Rauner during his briefing Wednesday afternoon.
“The funds for the Firearms Services Fund were swept during the previous administration in 2015 and 2018. There was no plan to maintain that fund or to replenish it, or to expand staffing during that period,” Pritzker said.
The governor noted his administration stopped “sweeping that fund” when he took office in 2019. At that point, ISP initiated new hiring practices and Kelly created a strategic plan focused on reaching system outcomes and accountability.
Pritzker also pointed out the significant increase in gun purchases. In fact, ISP reported FOID card applications increased 167% – from 166,649 applications in 2017 to 445,945 as of November 2020. The department has also processed more than 67,000 incoming records this year. ISP reported receiving more than 400,000 calls to the Firearm Services Bureau Call Center from May to November after activating a new automated phone system.
The Gun Violence Prevention Education Center and Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence reject any plans to expedite FOID applications unless police complete thorough background checks.
“We know that rushed and reckless, gun-lobby sponsored actions like this are a threat to public safety,” they stated. “As gun violence prevention advocates, we also recognize that the current system does not protect the public from illegal guns.”
Enforcement against real threats
Kelly also stated enforcement remains a concern with over 10,000 FOID revocations and 4,700 denials for firearm transfer in 2020.
“Aurora showed to everyone that Illinois should be using less of our resources on an antiquated, outdated, inefficient, ineffective renewal process from the 1960s and more on enforcement against real threats to public safety,” Kelly stated. “Our people believe in building a system that makes it hard for the bad guys and simple and safe for the good guys.”
Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) feels her colleagues could help ISP if they pass her comprehensive firearms bill in the Senate. Senate Bill 1966 would require background checks for every gun sale, applicants to submit fingerprints, and create a task force for ISP to prioritize FOID revocation when there is clear and present danger. The proposal would also require the renewing of FOID cards every five years instead of the current 10-year increment.
“Fix the FOID is not anti-gun,” Morrison stated. “It simply ensures guns are not possessed by people who should not legally have them. Fingerprinting everyone who applies for a card will help raise red flags if that person has a violent criminal history that should keep them from having a firearm.”