(The Center Square) – Illinois state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say something has to be done about the backlog of Firearm Owner Identification cards. They differ on the solution.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly says the backlog of gun owner licenses is “absolutely unacceptable” and the department is doing what they can.
State police data shows new FOID applications are taking an average of nearly 120 days, when it’s only supposed to take weeks. The backlog has, at times, exceeded 100,000. Some people who applied for their Firearm Owner Identification Card have said they have had to wait more than a year. And while expired FOID cards remain valid, under emergency rules state police filed, some dealers may not accept an expired card from someone wanting to buy a gun or ammo.
Thursday in Springfield, Kelly said the delays are “absolutely unacceptable.”
“And they can’t be tolerated,” Kelly said. “These are important legal issues. These are important public safety issues. And, we have to get to a system that is easy and simple and straightforward for the good guys and very hard for the bad guys to get a gun.”
State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said something has to be done to shore up the backlog, which is taking months longer than the law allows.
“Contrary to what many people think I do respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and I think that we need to up our game and get it where it needs to be and I hope that we can have some sense of normalcy and get that back in place soon,” Willis said.
Last year, Willis advanced a bill increasing FOID fees through the House, but that measure failed to move in the Senate.
To those who criticize state police still cashing their checks for FOID cards while they wait months beyond what the law states, Kelly understands. There needs to be modernization, he said.
“Some huge chunks of that process, we’re on the cusp of being able to automate some of those things and really improve that turnaround time, so that’s where some of those funds are going,” Kelly said. “But their complaint is understandable. Their complaint is well-founded. We should be able to turn these things around in a statutory time frame and we have to get that done.”
He said there needs to be a legislative fix to streamline the FOID and Concealed Carry License process.
State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, said the Democratic Majority doesn’t get it. It’s going to take the courts.
“We did this once on concealed carry and it didn’t go [Democrats’] way,” Caulkins said.
Illinois was the last state to have a prohibition on carrying firearms outside the home when it passed concealed carry in 2013. That was prompted by a Second Amendment challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I hope that [Democrats] would see the handwriting on the wall, come around to the realization that this process isn’t working and we need to refine it, or we really need to get rid of the FOID card,” Caulkins said.
There are more than a dozen lawsuits against the state’s gun licensing scheme working through the courts.
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