New Figures Show Depths of Noncompliance With Illinois Gun Registry

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

Several thousand gun owners in Illinois have complied with the state’s new registration requirement for so-called assault weapons and accessories since the January 1st deadline, according to the latest figures from the Illinois State Police. But the new figures show that the rate of compliance is still far short of what anti-gun lawmakers like Gov. J.B.Pritzker predicted, particularly in downstate counties.

The ISP says 5,867 FOID card holders submitted one or more affidavits since January 1st attesting to their ownership of items now prohibited for sale and manufacture under the Protect Illinois Communities Act, bringing the total number to 35,224. That’s a little more than 1 percent of all FOID card holders in the state, though not everyone who possesses a FOID card owns a firearm or accessory that must be registered. Still, based on industry estimates that one in five gun owners in the U.S. possesses a modern sporting rifle, if compliance with the new mandate was happening on a widespread basis we’d expect to see several hundred thousand affidavits filed with the state police.

Even if only 5 percent of FOID card holders possessed a now-verboten firearm or accessory, full compliance would mean almost four times as many affidavits filed than what the ISP has on hand, and there’s no reason to believe that ownership of AR-style rifles or other modern sporting rifles is that low in the Land of Lincoln. And some of the counties with the largest number of FOID holders per capita have seen some of the lowest rates of affidavits submitted, which is another pretty good sign that plenty of gun owners are engaging in an act of civil disobedience.

According to the state police data dashboard, the county with the fewest number of affidavits is Pope County, where just five gun owners have let the state know they possess a now-banned firearm or accessory. That’s less than 1 percent of the 1,374 FOID card holders in the county, and I have a very hard time believing that only a handful of residents in the southern Illinois county have an AR or AR-style rifle in their collection, especially since about one-third of the county’s residents are valid FOID card holders.

Effingham County, where the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement kicked off in earnest back in 2018, is reporting similarly small numbers. There are 11,701 active FOID cards in the county (out of a population around 34,000 people), but only 90 individuals have submitted affidavits to the state police. Per capita that’s about twice the number of affidavits filed in Pope County, but still less than 1 percent of all FOID card holders in the county.

As you get closer to Chicago, the numbers do tick up, but they’re still far short of what full compliance should look like. Dupage County, just to the west of Chicago, is home to 150,173 FOID card holders. According to the ISP, 2,535 of them have submitted affidavits alerting the state to their possession of “assault weapons” or banned accessories. If just 5 percent of FOID card holders in the county own one or more of those firearms (again, a very conservative estimate), full compliance would mean more than 7,500 affidavits on file. If, on the other hand, the number of gun owners in possession of modern sporting rifles is closer to the nationwide estimate of 1-in-5 gun owners, there should be more than 30,000 affidavits on file.

Even in Cook County itself, where enforcement of the law is likely to be the strictest in the state, there’s strong evidence of large amounts of non-compliance. The county has 731,229 active FOID cards (almost one-third of the state’s total), but only 6,364 affidavits submitted to date. If just 5-percent of Cook County FOID holders possess one of these firearms and had complied with the registration mandate, we’d be looking at slightly more than 36,000 affidavits. If the rate of ownership is closer to 20 percent, there should be nearly 150,000 affidavits on hand. The 6,364 affidavits that have been turned over to the state police are once again less than 1 percent of all FOID card holders in the county, and most likely account for just a small fraction of the number of lawful gun owners who kept hold of their now-banned firearms.

Gov. Pritzker can try to explain away these figures as much as he’d like, but there’s no getting around the fact that the number of affidavits submitted to the Illinois State Police is far below what even the most conservative estimates indicate it should be. With court challenges to the gun ban and registration requirement still playing out in federal court, it looks like many gun owners impacted by the law have decided to risk non-compliance rather than alerting the state police that they possess guns the state government doesn’t want them to own… grandfather clause or not.