After firearms owners identification card and concealed carry license applications backed up over the last year, lawmakers are trying to address the delay and make the renewal process more efficient with support from Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.
"The ISP is requesting legislation to consolidate the FOID and CCL card into a single card," Kelly said at a Wednesday press conference.
If passed, House Bill 745 and Senate Bill 1165 would allow FOID and concealed carry cards to be renewed at the same time to make the process faster and easier for the state police. It would also provide a way for the card to be automatically renewed.
State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, said this would "modernize the FOID card." It would also allow for the card to be digital.
The bill would also allow gun owners to voluntarily submit their fingerprints to expedite renewal. Normally, this idea draws sharp criticism from Republicans. However, state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, said the voluntary nature of this bill can help the ISP deal with the backlog without forcing people to submit fingerprints for state record.
"I would bet that many of us who possess concealed carry license or FOID card have given our fingerprints to the government. If someone doesn't want to give their fingerprints, they don't have to. Had they made this a mandatory provision, I wouldn't (support this)," Caulkins said.
The bill also seems to have support from Republicans who normally oppose the concept of FOID cards.
"If it's a voluntary fingerprinting, I have no issue with that. The complaint I would have is even the people who do concealed carry right now have the option of doing voluntary fingerprinting and it's supposed to speed up the process. And that is not always happening," said state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro.
Bryant supports getting rid of FOID cards; however, she said she would support this bill in its current form.
The bill does have opposition from those trying to prevent gun violence.
Kathleen Sances, President of Gun Violence Prevention PAC, said the proposal is a "gun lobby-backed bill (that) guts real universal background checks in exchange for nothing."
Sances wants to see more done to close loopholes and wants fingerprinting for gun buyers to be required instead of optional.
"Fingerprints as part of FOID applications would have prevented the Aurora, IL shooting because the shooter’s criminal history was not accurately verified when he applied for and received his FOID card. He was then able to buy and keep illegal guns," according to the Gun Violence Prevention PAC.
In 2019, Gary Martin opened fire at an Aurora business. The man had previously committed a felony in Mississippi and was not legally allowed to own a gun in Illinois. However, he was approved for a FOID card. It was canceled when he applied for a concealed carry license, which already allowed fingerprinting.
"Over 15,000 FOID cards were revoked in calendar year 2020. Over 5,100 unlawful attempts to purchase firearms were stopped. We've had hundreds of details and double the number of disposition reports, which is very critical after the events in Aurora," Kelly said.
"The state police, we're not here to give you advice. We're here to give you candid straightforward facts and information so you can make the best choice."
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Kelly said the ISP's position on universal background checks has not changed, but the focus on this bill is to deal with the FOID application backlog. They had begun working on reforming the FOID application process in 2019, but the events of 2020 made progress difficult and made the number of people trying to buy a gun larger.
"I think you're seeing people from all walks of life feel they need to have a firearm to protect themselves and I think you're seeing that contribute to huge increase for FOID and purchasing firearms," Kelly said.
The number of FOID card holders has increased from 1.2 million to 2.2 million over the last 10 years. The cards are issued for 10-year cycles and 2020 marked the end of the cycle, which meant more people than normal needed to renew their cards and was another reason so many people needed their cards renewed and created a backlog.
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