Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Before you read, today the director of the Illinois State Police today said he needs more ”resources“ (meaning money) for the ISP to do their job and is advocating for SB1966 (FOID card price increase and mandatory fingerprinting to get one). Now please see the timeline and information below to see that it’s BS.
With the 2020 Illinois General Assembly session about to kick into full gear (with gun control being a centerpiece), there is something that needs to be addressed. This will be a timeline of the FOID/CCL system and how not using funds intended for it and not following up on FOID revocations for violent offenders turn into tragedy. It will also show how legislators pass the blame (and cost) on to innocent legal illinois gun owners.
2012- Illinois State Police FOID policies & procedures is audited. It was known that less than 1/3 actually returned FOID cards when they were revoked, this still appearing legal to people checking FOID cards in person to determine eligibility for ammunition purchases and such.
Further, it was known there was issues with accurate reporting.
2013: Illinois passes the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, allowing lawful CC of a handgun. Part of the act discusses fees and what funds the fees would go into.
As noted, the State Police Firearms Services Fund is mentioned, which was created because of the C&C Act. The money collected is specially outlined as to be used for FOID and C&C expenses:
Also around this time, staff at the ISP Firearms Services Bureau (who is responsible for issuing FOID cards and Concealed Carry licenses) were having sexy time on the clock instead of doing their job.
2014: State Police is audited in 2016, but includes findings from 2014. Some more findings indicate that ISP staff didn’t know where to deposit the money collected from FOID and CCL fees as outlined in the 2013 law.
Additionally, money set aside for the fund is not being used.
(Of the $17.2 million set aside in 2014, only $2.2 million was used for intended purpose)
2014 is also the year the Henry Pratt shooter, Gary Martin, was issued his FOID card. Soon after in the same year, he applied for his concealed carry license, but he was rejected and was flagged as a convicted felon. He purchased a handgun using his FOID card before the ISP caught the felony conviction in the concealed carry licensing process. The ISP mailed Martin the FOID revocation letter, however Martin ignored it and that was that.
2017: It’s worked into the 2018 Illinois budget that its ok to take money from the State Police Firearms Services Fund and use it for other things.
Representative Kathleen Willis was a sponsor of a bill in which an amendment was worked into the budget.
What is that amendment? Allows for fund sweeping and green lighted $7.2 million to be swept from the State Police Firearms Services Fund.
2014-2019: Since the formation of the State Police Firearms Services Fund, the money for it has barely been touched for it‘s intended purpose, leaving tens of millions of dollars left over.
February 2019: Henry Pratt shooting occurs on 2/15/19. One day later, there was chatter amongst the J.B. Pritzker administration. Apologies for the FOIA format.
They knew what the problem was a day after the shooting (Martin didn’t surrender his FOID and the ISP didn’t act. All that was done was the ISP sent a notice). But no, we can’t fault the Illinois government and it’s different branches now, can we? Oh, and “legislative and administration reform” was discussed as well 2 days after the shooting. Gotta use the incident to discuss more laws!
May 2019: The Fix the FOID Act was introduced by Rep. Kathleen Willis. It passed the house and now awaits to be voted on in the Illinois Senate. The act requires mandatory fingerprinting in order obtain a FOID card at the individual’s expense (Willis actually is ok with fingerprinting everyone in the state if it “makes us safer“), outlaws private sales (must be conducted at a FFL), and also raises the fees for FOID cards, in which those fees will be deposited to various ”special funds”. Rep Willis stated during the time Fix the FOID was being debated that “One of the reasons that we saw that revocations were not followed up as best as they could was because there was no money in resources to be able to do that.” We now know that to not be the case. Willis also stated “You’re asking a felon to follow the law. It’s ludicrous, and that’s the way the gun lobby likes it.” Sure, Rep Willis.....
December 2019: On December 2nd, Mom-at-Arms uncovered some of the information used above and published it in an article. It started spreading around and caught the attention of a fair amount amount of people (including one Illinois state representative). Soon after, it turns out that the Illinois State Rifle Association and Rep. Keith Wheeler were going through the official channels to bring this to light as well. They began an investigation in September of 2019 which uncovered more findings.
After the ISRA and the Legislative Research Unit dropped their findings, the story exploded.
So, where does that leave us now?
January, 2020: The Illinois General Assembly is back in session. SB1966 (Fix the FOID) will undoubtably be debated in the Illinois Senate. This bill is being prepped up by Illinois gun control groups and is one of the top pieces of legislation on their list to get passed and signed into law. So, what have we learned through all of this?
1. The Illinois State Police mainly just sent revocation letters when FOID’s were revoked. They did not follow up and many people were able to maintain their FOID card if they failed to hand it over (thus appearing in compliance with Illinois law).
2. Per FOIA documents, the Illinois Governor and his staff were aware of the problem (FOID revocation not followed through) almost immediately after the shooting at Henry Pratt. 2 days after the shooting legislation was being discussed.
3. Rep Kathleen Willis stated that there‘s “no money or resources” to keep up with FOID/CCL revocations, yet money that’s supposed to be used for the programs is either not being used or is swept into other funds for reasons not related to firearms. The very same lawmakers asking to dump money into the various firearms funds now are the same ones that voted to sweep these funds, thus gutting them for their intended purpose.
4. Instead of using ”common sense” and fix the problems that cause issues immediately, some Illinois lawmakers instead seek to use a tragedy to advance their gun control agenda.
5. Between 2014-2019, the State Police Firearms Services Fund had a lapsed balance (unused money) of $87,829,032.
One of the favorite lines of those pushing gun control is “we must do something“. In reality, all that needs to be done (and needed to be done in the first place) is follow current law and follow up on revocations regarding violent individuals. The 2/15/19 Henry Pratt shooting that started this mess could have been prevented. I guess the ILGA and the Illinois State Police admitting they screwed up and no new laws are needed is not going to happen though, and once again the law abiding Illinois gun owner are hit with the fallout of government bureaucracy.
With all of the information that has come to light, I sincerely hope opponents of SB1966 work diligently to stop this unneeded bill from becoming law (especially since the ISP got a wake up call and started “fixing” things itself and no additonal funding is needed). Legal Illinois gun owners are tired of being used as scapegoats.