One of the big Second Amendment issues that’s emerged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year is the denial of rights that countless would-be gun owners have been subjected to thanks to lengthy delays in processing applications in states where permits or licenses are required to possess, purchase, and/or carry a firearm. Many sheriffs have had to temporarily shut down offices or limit hours, which has led to months-long waits just to drop off an application, and the wait times for the applications to be processed can stretch out for a year or more in some cases.
These delays have been an ongoing issue in Illinois since before the pandemic began, but the delays have only grown worse in the months since. As the Illinois Times reports, while the State Police are required to process Firearm Owner ID card applications with 30 days, they’re not even coming close to following the law.
Brent Urfer is a man who follows the rules. He’s an upstanding citizen who teaches school, pays taxes and obeys the law.
The Christian County man never has been convicted of any crime. Nonetheless, he was turned away when he attempted to buy ammunition from a Springfield farm supply store.
Why? His Firearm Owner’s Identification, or FOID card, had expired. And although he applied for a renewal, the state was slow to process his application.
“It took them one year, four months to process my FOID card and one year, two months to process my concealed carry permit,” Urfer said.
According to the Illinois State Police’s latest figures, as of August the average wait time for a new FOID card to be approved is 197 days, while the average renewal is supposedly taking 258 days. Despite the fact that the Illinois State police is failing to uphold its part of the law by processing these applications within 30 days, possessing a gun without a FOID card, even if you’re legally eligible to own a firearm, is still a crime in Illinois, and it’s still being prosecuted.
Earlier this year Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that will allegedly fix the delays, but the implementation of the improvements isn’t slated to begin until sometime next year. In the meantime, the Illinois State Supreme Court has been asked to hear a case dealing with the constitutionality of the FOID card itself, and in the next week or so the Court and the public should be able to read a report detailing the failure of the FOID system.
The problem became so acute that Sen. Chapin Rose, R- Mahomet, demanded that the state’s auditor general review the performance of the Illinois State Police Firearms Division.
The audit will be released either Sept. 29 or 30.
Illinois Times has learned that while the audit will show some improvement in processing times for FOID cards and concealed carry licenses, it will also show the agency is not in compliance with the standards set by statute.
“I haven’t seen the audit yet. But if it shows things are getting better, I won’t believe it,” Rose said. “My office receives way too many calls from constituents having problems in this area for me to think there has been an improvement.”
An improvement doesn’t matter much if the state still isn’t in compliance with its own law. “We’re still violating people’s rights, but for not quite as long” isn’t much of a defense, and frankly, there’s no reason to believe that the state will be in compliance anytime soon. In fact, last February the Illinois State Police said they were hiring more staff to deal with the backlog. They said the same thing last October, and again in April of this year. They’ve been promising to end these delays for well over a year now, or about as long as some applicants have had to wait before they can even legally possess a gun in their home for self-defense.
How on earth is this not an infringement of the right to keep and bear arms? If this is allowed to stand, then what is to stop an anti-gun state from requiring all gun owners to possess a FOID card, yet only hire a few state employees to process hundreds of thousands or millions of applications? After all, if an anti-gun state can violate its own law at will, why even attempt to comply if the end result is more gun owners? I’m sure that Illinois gun control advocates and anti-gun politicians are secretly thrilled about hundreds of thousands of residents having their rights indefinitely curtailed as a result of the ISP’s failures, and they’d love to be able to impose the Illinois model on other states that require permits or licenses to own a gun.
Expect Republicans and even a few downstate Democrats in Springfield to raise hell when this audit is released next week, but I don’t know if they’ve got the legislative muscle to force through a repeal, especially after the legislature approved their “Fix the FOID” bill this year. I think the most important audience for the IG report will be the seven justices on the state Supreme Court, who have the power to declare that the state cannot simply force would-be gun owners to twiddle their thumbs for months on end before being “allowed” to exercise a right, and to restore the Second Amendment rights of the people of Illinois by ruling the FOID card unconstitutional.