Last year, Illinois State Police determined that almost 11,000 people were too dangerous to own firearms and revoked their gun permits. However, 76 percent of those people were allowed to keep whatever firearms they had.
That’s because there is almost no follow up by authorities after a person’s Firearm Owner’s Identification, or FOID, card is voided.
It’s an issue WBEZ first reported on in 2013, and last week’s mass shooting in west suburban Aurora brought the issue to the forefront again. The shooter, Gary Martin, used a handgun he purchased in 2014, despite a previous felony conviction that should have barred him from owning a gun. When that conviction for aggravated battery was discovered, his gun permit was revoked but nothing was done to enforce that revocation.
“The only way we can honor those who died — the only way we will ever be safer — is to shine the brightest light on the good, bad, and ugly of this system and to lay bare for the public and policy makers the depth and breadth of our vulnerabilities,” state police Acting Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement released along with the new data Thursday.
The data show that in 2018, state police revoked 10,818 FOID cards. Card holders are required to turn in their cards when that happens and submit a “firearm disposition record” to show they’ve surrendered their guns to police or given them to a legal gun owner. Last year, only 2,616 firearm disposition records were turned in to state police, likely leaving thousands of illegal guns unaccounted for.
It’s a crime to fail to turn in a disposition record, but police only made 10 arrests statewide in 2018, according to the state police. That’s 10 people out of 8,202 violators in just one year.
State lawmakers are working on legislation to address the issue.
State Rep. Kathleen Willis said that legislation will likely require local departments to go after voided FOID cards and firearms. She said the state may try and ease the financial burden of the increased enforcement by raising the cost of the $10 FOID card.
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said he agreed “something has to be done” about people not relinquishing their weapons after their FOID cards are revoked.
But Pearson said his group would fight any effort to increase the cost of gun permits.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.