Illinois State Police Brag About Fixing FOID Delays, But Big Problems Remain

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

For well over a year now, gun owners and would-be gun owners in the state of Illinois have been twiddling their thumbs for months on end waiting for the Illinois State Police to process their applications.  This week those folks got some good news, with the ISP announcing a huge reduction in the backlog of Firearm Owner ID cards waiting for renewal.

In November [of 2020], there were 138,722 FOID renewals waiting to be processed, according to the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau. That number was down to 28,648 in September and, as of December, was down to 7,800.

“Today’s announcement by the Illinois State Police that the FOID application backlog has been dramatically reduced by more than 70 percent in the last year is great news for responsible gun owners in our state,” said state Sen Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon.

Now, I completely understand why the Illinois State Police would be inclined to massage the data around its processing of Firearm Owner ID and concealed carry applications, but this isn’t just putting a positive spin on the numbers. It’s more like polishing a turd.

Note that the Illinois State Police are referring specifically to the reduction in the backlog of FOID card renewals. They never mentioned it its press release how long new applications are taking, but a quick check of the ISP’s website shows that, as of October, it’s still taking the agency an average of more than 120 days to process a new FOID request. That means that would-be gun owners are currently being subjected to a four month waiting period, though individual cases could take much longer than that.

The news isn’t any better when it comes to processing concealed carry applications. The most recent ISP data shows that concealed carry applications that are submitted without the applicant’s fingerprints are taking an average of 130 days to process, while those who submit their fingerprints are still seeing a wait of 100 days or more before they receive their license.

Keep in mind that under Illinois law, the state police are supposed to process FOID applications within 30 days, and concealed carry applications within 90 days. Right now they’re only meeting the legal standard when it comes to processing FOID card renewals, and to be honest, that should actually be the lowest priority for the ISP at the moment. According to the agency:

“CCL and FOID card renewals continue to remain valid under emergency rules filed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency rule providing for the 18-month extension of FOID card and CCL renewals went into effect on September 3, 2020, replacing the previous 12-month extension.

In other words, even if your FOID card expires as long as you’ve submitted your renewal you’re good to go for 18 months. That’s not the case for first-time FOID applicants, however. You can’t legally possess a gun until you’ve received your FOID card, even if your application’s been submitted.

So while the Illinois State Police are patting themselves on the back and Democratic lawmakers are giving the agency accolades, the truth is that there are still thousands of Illinois residents who are being deprived of their right to keep and bear arms purely because of bureaucratic delays, and the agency responsible for the delays are prioritizing the applications of gun owners who’ve already been granted an extension to their FOID cards.

There are multiple lawsuits underway challenging both the delays in processing and the FOID requirement itself, though the Illinois Supreme Court has been slow to hear those challenges. My guess is that the justices are hoping that the Democrats’ pledge to fix the FOID will show enough progress to keep the gun control law in place, but would-be gun owners have already had to wait far too long in order to legally exercise their rights. Even if the ISP were processing every FOID application it received within the 30 days mandated by law, the statute should be struck down as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of Illinois residents. Keeping a bad law on the books while the state can’t even abide by its own mandate seems to me like an even more egregious abuse of our right to keep and bear arms.