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Sparse attendance at legislative hearing on relationship between mental health and guns

Illinois lawmakers are continuing to hold hearings into issues related to guns.

They met Thursday to discuss guns and mental health issues, but the hearing was sparsely attended. When House members have held similar hearings on carrying concealed weapons, the room has been packed full.

A velvet rope was put in the hallway to control the line of people waiting to get in. For Thursday’s hearing on mental health issues and guns, the velvet rope was out but nobody was standing in line.

State Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) said the two issues are related. She said she was recently at a hearing discussing cuts to mental health programs, while at the same time there was a hearing on guns going on in a separate building.

“We need to fund mental health in this state far better than we’ve been doing,” Tracy said.

Most lawmakers raised questions about how people can get their gun ownership ID, or FOID card, revoked. One common way is for judges to revoke someone’s FOID card while they appear in court. Chris Kachiroubas, the clerk of circuit court for DuPage County, said most of those instances come from Cook County.

Kachiroubas also testified that there’s no mechanism for court clerks to send revoked FOID cards to the Illinois State Police, which oversees the gun card program.

“If the court doesn’t order that it be sent to the state police, it just sits in a file somewhere,” said State Rep. Dennis Reboletti.

Jessica Trame, with the Illinois State Police, testified that the FOID card owner may still possess the card, but it would be revoked in their system if a judge orders it. She acknowledged that might not matter, though, if the person were to try to get a gun through a neighbor or someone who doesn’t run FOID cards through the State Police’s system.

Meantime, throughout the two hour-long hearing, there were few questions about mental health issues or getting counseling for those who see violence first-hand.

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