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Chicago's Perfect Storm: Rising Crime And Rights On Hold

It should be no surprise that Illinois has seen its seventh straight year of declining population, and the largest drop since the end of World War II. Beyond the high taxes and government bureaucracy, the state’s population center of Cook County is becoming a much more dangerous place, and if residents can leave, many of them are choosing to do so.

Illinois Policy reports that 235,000 residents have fled the state since 2010, with nearly 80,000 departing just in 2020. According to the think tank, nearly half of all residents say they’ve thought about moving out of the state, and while taxes are the number one reason given, crime is also a driving concern for many still living in Illinois.

Cook County had a record high 970 homicides last year, which is undoubtably causing many residents to be more concerned for their own personal safety. In a perfect storm of government incompetence, however, even as the body count is rising, law-abiding citizens are finding it impossible to legally get a gun to protect themselves.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the Illinois State Police were reporting an average wait time of 121 days to receive a Firearms Owner ID card, which is required before a resident can purchase a gun. Applicants for a concealed carry license are waiting even longer, with an average delay of 145 days between the time they submit their application and they learn if they’ve been approved or not.

That’s just the average, which means that many folks are waiting far longer.

Sycamore resident Dave Smith applied for a FOID card in June, and still can’t legally buy a gun nearly six months later. Smith says he’s not alone.

“I’m sitting here at five and a half months, one of my coworkers is sitting at well over five months for a concealed carry, and I have another coworker’s family member that’s waiting eight months for a FOID card,” Smith said…

“My in-laws and family who are out of state? No problem!” Smith said. They just go purchase their gun, get a simple background check, and that’s it.”

Republicans in Illinois have responded to the crisis by suggesting changes to the existing FOID card system, though many of them have acknowledged that they’d like to see the FOID requirements scrapped completely.

[Rep. Patrick] 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 commonsense 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.

The Illinois State Rifle Association is also involved in litigation that challenges the FOID card delays, while other 2A groups are pursuing lawsuits seeking to throw out the FOID card requirements as unconstitutional. Those legal challenges are going to take some time to come to fruition, however, and in the meantime there are literally hundreds of thousands of residents who’ve had to wait for months in a legal limbo before receiving permission to exercise a fundamental, constitutionally protected right.

It’s no wonder why so many are fleeing the state of Illinois in search of a better life. You’re not even allowed to protect the one you have unless the bureaucracy signs off first, and the anti-gun politicians and paper-pushing bureaucrats are doing far more to add to the delays than fixing them. As Cook County’s crime rate shows, violent criminals are having no problem at all illegally obtaining a firearm. It’s the state’s law-abiding residents who are being impacted by Illinois’ unconstitutional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Jul 27, 2021 12:30 PM ET