Illinois Lawmakers Pass FOID Bill Over Gun Owner Objections

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

It’s billed as a plan to “fix the FOID,” but legislation approved by the Illinois House and Senate has received far more criticism than praise from gun owners in the state. HB 562 not only shortens the amount of time that a Firearms Owner ID card is valid, it raises the fees for applying for the permit, which is required before any Illinois resident can legally possess a firearm.

Republican lawmakers have been trying to get rid of the FOID requirement entirely, pointing to months-long delays in processing FOID applications by the Illinois State Police as well as a recent court decision declaring that the FOID requirement is unconstitutional, at least when it comes to guns kept in the home. Democrats in control of both the state House and Senate rejected those arguments, however, and moved forward with the bill over the weekend, claiming that the new legislation will fix the fundamental flaws in the system.

Some Democrats have issued statements to show their support of the bill. This includes State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, who said:

“One of the top issues I have heard about during my time in the Senate is the huge backlog of applications for folks trying to renew their FOID cards. This legislation streamlines the process, brings down the backlog and focuses more resources on enforcement.

“It’s clear that the system currently in place is not working, and it’s long past time to get the Illinois State Police back on track in a way that supports law-abiding gun owners. I’m proud to see this legislation advance.”

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, also released a statement on the bill’s passing. He said:

“One of the biggest obstacles we face with the FOID system is the enormous backlog of applications. There has to be a compromise between having a safe and effective system without making the process unnecessarily difficult for gun owners who have proven themselves to be safe and responsible. I think that this legislation accommodates both of those objectives.

“This legislation will allow the Illinois State Police to really focus on keeping our communities safe by ensuring that firearms are kept away from people who are dangerous, both to themselves and others.”

Can any lawmaker really claim with a straight face that the FOID requirement is keeping guns away from dangerous people? More than 30 people were shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, and I’d venture a guess that none of the shooters possessed a valid FOID card or concealed carry license.

The FOID requirement has done far more to prevent responsible citizens from being able to legally purchase a gun than it has to stop a criminal from obtaining a firearm, and my guess is that those lengthy delays on the part of the Illinois State Police in processing applications have led at least some applicants to acquire a gun illegally; not because they intend to use it to commit a crime but because they’re desperate to protect themselves in their home and they’d rather run the risk of being arrested for possessing a gun without a FOID card than be unarmed and defenseless thanks to the bureaucratic delays on the part of the state.

There’s really no fixing the FOID. It’s an inherently flawed system that should be scrapped entirely, but with Democrats in control in Springfield, the best chances of that happening rest with the Illinois Supreme Court, which will soon have a chance to weigh in on the constitutionality of the law. Let’s hope that they see what Democratic majority in the statehouse refuse to acknowledge; the FOID requirement does far more damage to the Second Amendment rights of residents than it does to the aspirations of violent criminals.