New Illinois FOID Law Requires Background Checks On All Gun Sales

Steve Helber

Illinois didn’t have universal background checks in the most technical sense. What they did have was a FOID card requirement. You had to have one to legally buy a gun, which meant you’d passed a background check, but it wasn’t a true universal background check system.

However, there were problems with the FOID system. It was old and needed to be updated. Illinois just took care of that.

The problem is that in doing so, they also included a bunch of other stuff.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation Monday which expands background checks on all gun sales in Illinois and provides mental health funding for communities most impacted by gun violence, among other life-saving measures.

The legislation is the latest effort by the Pritzker administration and General Assembly to address gun violence as a public health crisis, building on the $128 million investment in violence prevention programs included in this year’s state budget.

“The bill I sign today delivers to Illinoisans everywhere the most comprehensive reform to our state firearms laws in over a generation. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come together to shape a law steeped in a commonsense commitment to safety,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “The state will now require universal background checks on all gun sales in Illinois. We’re also taking action to ensure responsible gunowners aren’t held back by an antiquated licensing system – which hasn’t seen significant updates since its founding more than 50 years ago.”

According to the governor’s office, passing with bipartisan support, House Bill 562 makes sweeping modernizations to the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card system, which hasn’t been updated since its creation over 50 years ago. In the last decade, the number of Illinoisans with a FOID Card has nearly doubled without modernization of statutory framework or technology – from 1.2 million in 2010 to 2.2 million today.

Bipartisan support? Well, yeah. Republicans wanted/needed the FOID system updated because, as things stood, people were waiting an incredible period of time to get their FOID cards. A friend of mine in Illinois was beginning to wonder if she would ever get hers before it arrived months late.

It seems that some GOP lawmakers were so eager to get the system updated that they were willing to give up the store.

The legislation does the following:

  • Expands background checks to all gun sales in Illinois starting in 2024.
  • Invests incommunity-based, trauma-informed mental health programs in the communities most impacted by gun violence.
  • Properly funds the Illinois State Police’s ability to enforce the surrender of firearms from people who have lost their license for gun ownership.
  • Requires ISP to remove guns from people with revoked FOID cards who have not surrendered their weapon.
  • Amends how FOID card fees are distributed: $5 will go to the State Police Firearm Services Fund and $5 will go into the State Police Revocation Enforcement Fund (previously, $6 went to the Wildlife and Fish Fund, $1 to the State Police Services Fund, and $3 to the State Police Firearm Services Fund).
  • Creates a stolen gun database and requires ISP to continuously monitor state and federal databases for prohibited gun buyers.
  • Creates stronger identification factors, like fingerprints, so Illinois State Police can more easily verify the identity of FOID applicants and firearm purchasers, as well as increase the frequency of background checks. Allows responsible gunowners who opt into this process to see their FOID and Concealed Carry applications expedited and automatically renewed going forward.
  • Streamlines the FOID card system by allowing ISP to create electronic records, creating a combined FOID and concealed carry license, offering cardholders the ability to apply for renewal six months before the expiration date, and establishing a professional appeals board.
  • Formalizes in law preventative actions the Illinois State Police has taken under Director Brendan Kelly’s leadership: giving all Illinois law enforcement agencies access to the FOID status of any individual, ensuring State Police continuously monitor federal and state databases for any new threat to safety, requiring every Illinois law enforcement agency to submit ballistics information to national crime databases within 48 hours, and making available to the public all firearms reported stolen to crack down on illegal gun trafficking.

Of course, through all of this, Illinois missed that one of the best tools for addressing so-called gun violence is to make it easier for law-abiding citizens to arm themselves.

Then again, this is Illinois. While most of the state is filled with decent, sensible people, its politics are driven by Chicago, and we know what kind of a dumpster fire that place actually is.

For those of you who are going to be dealing with all of this, my condolences. It could have been worse, but it could have been better, too.