SPRINGFIELD — Four GOP state House lawmakers, including one from Vermilion County, on Wednesday voiced complaints from their central and southern Illinois constituents who say they have waited months after applying for new or renewed gun ownership licenses without an update from the Illinois State Police amid an unprecedented volume of applications this year.
Reps. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis and Mike Marron, R-Fithian, repeated their criticisms of the Firearm Ownership Identification card and concealed carry license systems during a virtual news conference.
The group discussed reforms they have suggested in the past which have stalled in the General Assembly.
Bourne said FOID and concealed carry issues and delays have been the top complaint from her constituents, eclipsed only by issues related to unemployment.
“There is no way around it. These people are experiencing lengthy and unreasonable delays, which is an infringement on their constitutional rights,” Bourne said.
According to ISP, the current average processing time for new FOID applications is 121 days. For new CCL applications, the average processing time is 145 days.
ISP, in a release issued Tuesday, stated the processing times “are unacceptable.”
“Our people believe in building a system that makes it hard for the bad guys and simple and safe for the good guys. 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,” ISP Director Brendan Kelly said in the release.
The Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau is responsible for issuing FOID cards and concealed carry licenses. Under state law, “no person may acquire or possess any firearm, stun gun, or taser,” or ammunition, without having a state-issued FOID card.
ISP has 30 days from the date it receives an application and filing fee to either approve or deny that request. For renewals, state police officials have 60 days.
State law also requires individuals obtain an Illinois Concealed Carry License in order to carry a concealed firearm in Illinois. ISP typically has 90 days from the date it receives an application and fee to approve or deny the license request. If the application does not include a set of the applicant’s fingerprints in digital format, ISP has an additional 30 days.
ISP and Kelly are also named in at least two pending federal lawsuits that allege the excessive delays in issuing new and renewed FOID cards renders the system unconstitutional because it effectively denies Illinoisans their Second Amendment right to possess a gun.
The long delays and significant backlog at the Firearms Services Bureau trace back to the budget impasse under Gov. Bruce Rauner, but these issues were exacerbated in 2020 when the agency saw increased applications for FOID cards and concealed carry licenses, according to the news release.
ISP reported it received 147,862 FOID card applications from March through June, and that figure was more than double the amount received in the prior four-month period.
The agency reported a 167 percent increase in FOID card applications, from 166,649 in 2017 to 445,945 as of November 2020.
There were 144,476 new FOID applications pending as of Dec. 7, 2020, according to ISP, while total new CCL pending applications are at 27,248.
Efforts at ISP to address the backlog and delays include hiring 21 Firearms Eligibility Analysts since March 2020, with 11 more set to start in January 2021, and adding 19 temporary contracted employees to the Firearms Services Bureau, according to the news release.
ISP also issued an emergency rule earlier this year for FOID card and CCL holders whose cards or licenses have expired. The rule allows for the card or license to remain valid during the duration of the state’s disaster proclamation and for 18 months following the end of the disaster, as long as the card or license holder submits a renewal application.
Davidsmeyer said this does not resolve the problem facing his constituents with expired cards because gun stores can decline to sell guns or ammunition to someone with an expired card.
“My constituents are going in during hunting season trying to purchase ammunition or even a new gun to go hunting, and they can’t do it because their FOID (card) is expired. Even though the state police have said, we are going to extend this, the retailers are so concerned about the liability they may have if they do sell to the wrong person that they will not sell to anybody. And it’s an understandable position to be in,” Davidsmeyer said.
Windhorst said he would prefer to eliminate the FOID card requirement, although he conceded such a proposal would not likely pass, given the makeup of the Illinois General Assembly.
“But, as I continue to push for repeal, I believe we can pass common-sense legislation to ease the burden on law-abiding gun owners. These bills are designed to address complaints about delays of the FOID card, concealed carry license and firearm transfer system,” Windhorst said.
Those bills include a measure that would eliminate the 72-hour waiting period after purchasing a firearm for certain individuals who possess a valid conceal carry license; and a measure to require the Illinois State Police to automatically renew any concealed carry license holders’ FOID card, as long as their concealed carry license is in good standing.