Illinois state representatives on Wednesday approved a gun control bill prompted by February’s mass shooting in west suburban Aurora.
The legislation would require fingerprinting to get a gun permit, create a state police task force to go after guns owned by people whose permits have been revoked, require background checks on all gun sales and transfers, and increase the cost of a permit.
Lawmakers tweaked the bill this week in an apparent attempt to appease gun rights groups who complained that some of the fees attached to the permitting process would impose unreasonable costs on people who just want to exercise their constitutional right to own a firearm, but the bill would still increase some fees from the current levels. The Illinois State Rifle Association is promising a legal challenge should the bill become law.
The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Willis and is meant to address longstanding loopholes in the state’s gun permitting process that were exposed when Gary Martin killed five people and wounded five officers in a shooting at an Aurora manufacturing plant.
Martin used a gun he was able to purchase only because an Illinois background check failed to turn up an out-of-state felony conviction. When the conviction was discovered, Martin’s gun license was revoked, but he was never forced to give up his firearm. State police records show they fail to follow up on thousands of revoked gun permits every year.
The bill passed the state House by a vote of 62-52, it now moves to the Illinois Senate.
Kathleen Sances, president of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, which lobbied for the bill, said in a statement that she was “proud of the Illinois House for working to close the gaps in our gun laws to ensure that those who are prohibited from gun possession, are not able to easily evade the law and arm themselves.”
Richard Pearson, the head of the Illinois State Rifle Association released a statement and called the legislation “an affront to every gun owner” in Illinois.
“We have a guaranteed right to own a firearm under the Constitution, but here in Illinois to exercise that right, you must jump through all kinds of hoops and pay all kinds of money to the state,” Pearson said. “[We] will keep fighting this in the Legislature and will be challenging this terrible legislation in court should it be signed into law.”
Right now, an application for a Firearm Owner’s Identification card — or FOID — costs $10, and the permit lasts for 10 years. Originally Willis’ legislation called for increasing the application fee to $50 for a five-year permit.
Under the legislation that passed the house, the permitting fee would be $20 for a five-year permit.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.