We know that millions of Americans have become gun owners for the very first time in 2020, but how many others are twiddling their thumbs and waiting for approval from their state or local governments before they can join them? Given the local issuance of gun permits in some states, it’s nearly impossible to know for certain exactly how many people are stuck in a bureaucratic limbo at the moment, but it’s fair to say that hundreds of thousands of Americans are currently being denied their right to keep and bear arms because of the long backlogs of applications in many jurisdictions.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. we take a closer look at the situation in Illinois, where the state police are currently wading through a backlog of more than 140,000 FOID card applications and more than 26,000 concealed carry applications. The problem has persisted for months despite repeated assurances by the Illinois State Police that more staff were being hired and trained to process the applications, and the wait times have only grown longer as the months have rolled by.
Even those who already possess a FOID card are running into issues. The state police have extended the life of existing FOID cards an additional 18 months, which will supposedly allow them to process new applications faster, but Second Amendment groups and even some lawmakers in Illinois are pointing out that the extension doesn’t solve all of the problems.
Despite a temporary rule that extends the expiration dates for Firearm Owners Identification cards and concealed carry permits, many Illinois gun owners are still finding it difficult to buy weapons and ammunition.
That was one of the issues that came up Wednesday, Oct. 14, during a meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a legislative body that oversees the state’s regulatory processes.
“The problem that that a lot of my constituents are having is firearms dealers and businesses are not accepting the FOID cards that are expired, even though they know … that the state of Illinois has said, hey, they’re still good beyond the expiration date,” state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said during the hearing.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, confirmed Schimpf’s allegation that legal gun owners are being denied their ability to purchase firearms and ammunition because their FOID card has expired on paper, even though the state maintains it’s still valid.
“I know that they’re worried about liability,” he said. “And so, (the rule) might say that they’re okay, but the law says you can’t do it, and the executive order overrides the law. It is a big quagmire. Plus the fact that these people can’t buy ammunition in Illinois.
“And so they have to go on online and buy it, and to get it online, you have to supply the provider of that ammunition, the seller of that ammunition, with a valid FOID card and they don’t have a valid FOID card.”
Pearson said that has been especially frustrating for hunters because deer and waterfowl hunting seasons are coming soon.
“And deer slugs in some places are in short supply,” he said. “So, you know, you’re supposed to have a valid FOID card while you’re out hunting. But of course, the executive order overrides that, so they’re not doing anything about it.”
This is a huge problem, and Pearson notes that there are currently a dozen lawsuits in progress challenging the FOID card delays and the FOID card mandate itself.
The issues aren’t just confined to Illinois either. In North Carolina, wait times for pistol purchase permits (which are required in order to legally buy a handgun) stretch out for months in some counties, though under state law local sheriffs are supposed to process the applications within 14 days. In Illinois as well, police have an obligation to process applications within 30 days, but suffer no penalties if they fail to do so.
Nor are the problems limited to applications for pistol purchase permits or Firearm Owner ID cards. We’re also seeing extraordinary backlogs in concealed carry applications, including a wait time of more than a year in Philadelphia, which has prompted a lawsuit on the part of Gun Owners of America.
A right delayed is a right denied, and it’s clear that hundreds of thousands of Americans are being denied their ability to protect themselves and their families with a firearm. My hope is that the lawsuits challenging the bureaucratic backlogs will be successful, but ultimately these delays should serve as evidence for the scrapping of gun permit laws in their entirety.