Inspector General Says Illinois State Police Violating State FOID Law

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, wait times for Illinois residents who want to become legal gun owners have stretched out for six months or more. That’s because Illinois requires all legal gun owners to possess a Firearms Owner ID card, but the Illinois State Police aren’t processing applications within the 30-day window required under state law. So far the agency’s been able to get away with it by claiming that it’s working on the problems, which were caused by circumstances outside of its control, but a new report by the state’s Inspector General reveals the problems predate the pandemic.

The audit was for 2018 and 2019. Even before the pandemic, there were delays in applications being processed in the timeframe allowed by law. Delays affected around 1 in 10 applicants in 2018 and increased to about 1 in 4 in 2019.

For 2020 and into 2021, years not part of the audit, the average wait times were far beyond the 30 days allowed by law.

“Average processing time has dropped from 205 days in July of 2021 to less than 190 days in September of 2021,” ISP said in the auditor’s report.

Whoop-de-do. The ISP has 30 days to process these applications, and it’s intolerable that the agency can simply impose a months-long waiting period on the exercise of a civil right by blaming the nature of bureaucracy and promising internal reforms.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the problem with the persistent delays is new applicants’ rights are being denied.

“If you’re applying for a renewal of your card, at least we have it in place where that card gets extended even though you don’t get the new card in the mail, but for new applicants we are literally violating their constitutional rights,” Butler told WMAY before the audit was released.

Yup. And unfortunately, unless the Illinois Supreme Court steps in and declares the FOID statute unconstitutional (as a circuit judge in Illinois has already opined), the rights of thousands of residents are going to continue to be violated.

The IG report does not go so far as to recommend repeal of the statute. This is Democratic-controlled Illinois, after all. Instead, the report recommends the FOID process be “streamlined.” Tim Butler has a better idea.

“I think we just need to get rid of the FOID card,” Butler said. “I think in today’s environment where we have instant background checks … I bought a handgun last year, went through the process, got the background check, waited the 72 hours. You didn’t need a FOID card to make that purchase with that stuff in place.”

The audit said ISP recognized that “essentially anything checked during a FOID background check is also checked during (a Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program) transaction” when someone buys a firearm.

So the Illinois State Police acknowledge that a FOID card is basically redundant since a background check is conducted on every retail sale of a firearm in the state, and more importantly, they admit that they can’t process these applications in the time mandated by law. The state police are literally breaking the law, and without any consequence whatsoever. Not a good look, at the very least, right? But the top brass, who all serve at the pleasure of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, cannot do the logical thing and call for the repeal of the law (at least not without putting their job at risk).

Which means there’s a good chance that if you live in Illinois and decide it’s time to embrace and exercise your Second Amendment rights, the state is going to keep you and your rights in a legal limbo for months on end. If you’re lucky maybe your application to exercise your Second Amendment right to keep arms in the home will be processed faster than average. Of course, there’s also a good chance that you’ll end up being one of the unlucky ones who’ve had to wait for more than a year for their state-issued permission slip. And beware, because while the Illinois State Police may be able to violate state law with impunity, the same cannot be said for those residents who choose to possess a firearm without a FOID card.