The civil unrest and increasing violent crime in Chicago and other Illinois cities have prompted tens of thousands of Illinois residents to arm themselves in self-defense for the very first time. The Illinois State Police reports that in the first two weeks of June, more than 42,000 residents applied for a Firearms Owner ID card. That’s a 500% increase from the same time period in 2019, and gun store owners and firearms instructors in the state say they expect the demand to continue, at least in the near future.
At Fox Valley Gun Range in Elgin, Illinios, owner Mark Galvin says he’s gone from selling ten guns per day last year to as many as 200 per day in recent weeks. According to the Chicago Tribune, the flood of new gun owners has resulted in further backlogs to the state’s background check system.
The mandatory 72-hour background check — required by the state before getting a gun — has stretched to more than a week for some of his customers. On Monday, he was still waiting on five backgrounds he submitted on June 16, eight from June 17 and seven from Thursday.
The firearms services bureau of the Illinois State Police is taking an average of 94 business hours — not counting holidays, weekends, the day the gun is purchased, or the day the sale is approved or denied — to process background checks, roughly a day longer than usual, according to state police spokeswoman Beth Hundsdorfer.
The bureau is responsible for issuing firearm owner’s identification cards and concealed carry licenses, as well as conducting background checks for licensed gun dealers when a sale is made. Its work started to pick up in March and has spiked in June, Hundsdorfer said.
While background checks for gun sales delayed at the moment, the wait for a FOID card is even longer, with many prospective gun owners now waiting for months to be approved before they can legally purchase a firearm.
A 38-year-old man from Dixon — who didn’t want his name used, citing employment reasons — described himself as “a very liberal Democrat” who for decades has been “for most forms of gun control politically.” But since March, he’s been waiting for his first gun permit to arrive so he can keep his family safe, he said.
“My views have recently changed, and I have accepted that the Second Amendment provides for the personal ownership and use of a firearm,” he said in an email. “The recent social unrest of a divisive president, the pandemic and dramatic rise in unemployment, and the more recent social unrest because of the way we police in this country have all been reasons that have prompted my recent application.”
I can’t help but wonder if this self-described “very liberal Democrat” has changed his mind about the state’s FOID card requirement, given that he’s been waiting for months for government permission to protect himself and his family.
The Tribune found plenty of other Illinois residents who’ve been waiting since March to get their FOID cards, even though the state has supposedly increased the number of staff handling the flood of requests and has also automatically extended current FOID cards and concealed carry licenses for a year. Still, the system can’t keep up with demand at the moment, leaving many would-be gun owners to twiddle their thumbs when they could be exercising their right to keep and bear arms.
Even before the current spike in applications, the Illinois State Rifle & Pistol Association and the Second Amendment Foundation had sued the state over long delays in processing FOID cards, arguing that the wait amounts to a deprivation of the Second Amendment rights of applicants. With the delays now reaching epidemic proportions, that argument is even stronger. A right delayed is a right denied, and at the moment there are tens of thousands of Illinois residents who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights but are being prevented from doing so thanks to the bureaucracy and gun control laws in Illinois.