Illinois Senate Updates Firearms Owner Card System, Says No to Mandatory Fingerprinting

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
June 1, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2021

To address the massive backlog of the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card process on the Illinois State Police firearms safety system, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that will potentially alleviate the backlog by automatically renewing FOID cards.

On Monday, the Illinois Senate passed Sen. Dave Koehler’s bill, HB 562, in the Senate in a 40-17 vote. The legislation will require further background checks for potential gun owners. In addition, people who own firearms lawfully can apply for an FOID card that automatically renews if they voluntarily submit their fingerprints. The bill also condenses FOID cards and concealed carry licenses into one document and establishes a portal that includes reports of people whose FOID cards have been revoked or suspended, which can be accessed by law enforcement officials.

“One of the biggest obstacles we face with the FOID system is the enormous backlog of applications,” said Koehler. “There has to be a compromise between having a safe and effective system without making the process unnecessarily difficult for gun owners who have proven themselves to be safe and responsible. I think that this legislation accommodates both of those objectives.”

The voluntary fingerprint proposal is supported by Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly, who for months has been calling on the legislature to take action to alleviate the massive backlog of FOID card renewal applications.

The Illinois state police said in a press statement that the demands placed on the state’s firearms safety system have been “outgrowing capacity for years.” The number of FOID cardholders has grown from 1.2 million to 2.2 million over the last 10 years. Likewise, the number of concealed carry license holders grew from 90,301 in 2014 to 343,299 in 2020 and FOID card applications grew from 166,649 in 2017 to 445,945 as of November 2020.

gun sales spike
Andrea Schry (R) fills out the buyer part of legal forms to buy a handgun as shop worker Missy Morosky fills out the vendors’ parts after Dukes Sport Shop reopened in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on March 25, 2020. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

Illinois state law requires its residents to have a FOID card to legally possess firearms or ammunition, which is issued by the Illinois State Police to any applicant who can meet the eligibility criteria.

Meanwhile, Rep. Maura Hirschauer’s legislation, HB1091, which would have made submitting fingerprints mandatory in order to renew the FOID card, while passing in the House on Saturday, did not make it to the Senate.

Democrats voted in favor of HB1091, calling it “sensible gun control.”

“I urge my Senate colleagues to support @RepMaura’s FOID card bill to take another step towards sensible gun control in our state,” said Democrat Senator Will Guzzardi in a social media statement Monday.

Founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts advocated for the passage of Hirschauer’s bill.

“YES!!! The BIO bill would strengthen Illinois’ background check system by requiring a point-of-sale background check for all state gun sales, and make the FOID card valid for 5 years instead of 10,” wrote Watts in a Twitter post.

Although some GOP members of the Senate voted for HB 562, Republicans say that the bill is only a temporary fix and want the FOID card eliminated altogether.

A Republican member of the Illinois General Assembly, Sen. Neil Anderson, said that while modernizing the FOID card process is fine, in order to address the massive backlog, the basic requirement for the FOID card, he believes, infringes on his law-abiding constituents’ Second Amendment right.

“I appreciate the effort being put forth to ensure that those with expired FOID cards and concealed carry licenses have a valid license during this massive backlog,” said Anderson. “However, this is simply just a band-aid to a much larger problem across our state. Illinois places some of the most burdensome requirements on our law-abiding citizens who are seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“I believe we need to talk about my Repeal the FOID legislation. The FOID card is, again, a blatant assault on people’s Second Amendment right to protect themselves and to keep and bear arms,” he added.

Anderson’s Bill 1754, “would eliminate the need to own a FOID card, while not changing any of the other existing requirements of purchasing a firearm. Strict federal background checks would still be in place.”

Sen. Jason Barickman, who voted against HB 562, said it puts in place unnecessary hurdles for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right.

“Private sales, including between family and friends, will now potentially require new fees and owners will have to hold on to paperwork for 20 years. We should be finding ways to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, instead of making it harder for law-abiding citizens to take part in their constitutional rights,” said Barickman.

Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq