Illinois SB 1966 is a draconian bill that will increase Firearms Owner ID card fees, require mandatory fingerprinting (at gun owner’s expense), and make the FOID card valid for only 5 years instead of 10. You MUST have one of these cards in the Land of Lincoln to legally posses a firearm (although a few court cases are challenging that).
SB 1966 exists due to the 2019 Henry Pratt Company shooting in Aurora, Illinois (never let a crisis go to waste). To sum up what happened, a convicted felon was able to get a FOID card from the Illinois State Police despite his criminal record. His felony conviction later popped up when he applied for a concealed carry license, which was denied.
The ISP sent him a FOID revocation letter, which the shooter ignored. His local PD was also notified of the revocation, but never followed up on it. So he was a felon in possession thanks to the ISP’s failure to turn up his criminal record when they processed his FOID application.
A detailed breakdown of the failures and screw-ups that led to the shooting by the Illinois State Police and Illinois legislators can be found here.
Back in early December of 2019, a story broke which detailed the misuse (or lack of use) of funds meant for the FOID and concealed carry license application system. The story detailed some of the shenanigans that occur where the Illinois State Police processes FOID/CCL cards, including tens of millions of dollars that had been budgeted to fund the ISP processing operation, but were instead diverted to other uses by the state.
Those discoveries resulted in a federal lawsuit against the Illinois State Police over the FOID and CCL application processing delays (a right delayed is a right denied, right?).
In May of 2019 during an Illinois House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding SB1966 the main sponsor for the bill, Rep. Kathleen Willis, had this to say as to one of the primary reasons for the bill:
Willis said the purpose of the bill is to “keep up” with FOID revocations and create better communication between local and state law enforcement agencies.
“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,” Willis said.
During the same hearing, the Illinois State Police tried to justify the slow processing by claiming that Illinois gun owners just aren’t paying enough to the state:
State Police Lt. John Thompson testified Tuesday about the challenges his agency faces with the limited funds it receives for FOID revocation enforcement.
He said the fee of $10 for 10 years isn’t enough to sustain the nearly 1,000 applications the department receives daily.
“We’re running a very, very basic operation, and it’s not what’s expected of us and we need to do better,” Thompson said.
The fact is that Illinois anti-gun legislators knew there was plenty of money available to fund the FOID and CCL application operation. Strangely, though, one of the main house sponsors of SB1966 sponsored a “fund transfers” bill that went nowhere in 2017. But an amendment to it was worked into the 2018 budget.
The purpose of the bill: millions in budgeted funds were swept from the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Fund into the General Revenue Fund. In other words, the state is siphoning off cash at the expense of Illinois gun owners and using it to fund the state’s huge budget deficit.
Here’s the original bill:
The amendment is located here.
Legislative Research Unit findings:
2018 State Finance Act:
Illinois’ anti-gun legislators clearly knew exactly what they were doing.
That brings us to yesterday, March 5 2020. Illinois House GOP members held a press conference and talked about how to fix this mess (one of which is tossing out the FOID system entirely, but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon).
“You have several problems here,” said Rep. Michael Marron, R-Fithian. “The first thing is, is that you are taking law abiding citizens who are trying to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms, and you’re creating a problem for them being compliant with the state law.”
The lawmakers said nearly $30 million in funding was swept from the ISP’s coffers to the state’s general revenue fund from fiscal years 2015 to 2019, including more than $13 million from the Firearm Services Fund which goes to FOID administration.
In response, Illinois State Police spokeswoman Beth Hundsdorfer issued this statement:
“’Sweeps’ of the firearms services fund prevented long-term planning and improvements to firearm services for years,” she said. “Now that the firearms services fund has been stabilized under the governor’s bipartisan budget, the ISP is implementing a multi-year plan for hiring and technology upgrades to provide the customer service that firearms owners should expect. We currently have 35 positions available.”
At a news conference last month, ISP Director Brendan Kelly called for greater resources to enforce FOID revocations and administer the program, and he backed Senate Bill 1966 which would double FOID fees and require renewals every five years.
The processing delays and budget chicanery were created around an outdated system that isn’t needed. Legislators swept appropriated funds because the ISP doesn’t use the all funds they have. FOID and CCL applications piled up on desks. Then the ISP demanded MORE money for the special fund that’s supposed to bankroll the processing center.
The ISP — while crying poor — didn’t even bother to ask to be reimbursed by the Illinois General Assembly for the millions in swept funds. The real victims in this mess are — SURPRISE! — Illinois’ legal gun owners.
Maybe the Illinois State Police should review their own policies & procedures manual for the Firearms Services Bureau (obtained by FOIA request) regarding FOID/CCL processing (starting on page 55). That should give them some insights on how all of this should be done.
Meanwhile SB 1966 will get another hearing in the Senate any day now.