By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — A state senator is filing legislation he says would fix problems with Illinois’ Firearm Owner Identification cards after a shooting last month in Aurora exposed flaws in the system.
The Illinois State Police approved Gary Martin’s application for a FOID card in 2014 after he lied about his criminal past on the application. He bought a gun, and only after applying for a concealed carry permit that same year did the agency discover a criminal conviction in Mississippi that should have prevented Martin from getting the FOID card in the first place.
Martin was sent a FOID card revocation letter in 2014, but ISP said there was no record the shooter, who was killed in a workplace shootout last month, ever surrendered his FOID card or any firearms or ammunition he possessed. Martin killed five people and wounded six others.
“There were some errors made by a system that should have worked, but didn’t,” Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said. “There are possibly federal databases that aren’t talking to each other. There are state databases that can’t talk to federal databases. Otherwise, this person would have been caught.”
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said he has language in an amendment to Senate Bill 44 that he’s filing to require better information be reported and shared to catch such instances quicker.
“What it does is it makes municipalities mandatory reporters to the state police and the state has to report felons, misdemeanors, domestic violence … it has to be reported up,” Hastings said. “So in the situation like Aurora, the state police missed the felony and it is inexcusable.”
“If you put garbage in, garbage comes out. If you put great information in, great information comes out,” Hastings said. “It’s good to have a comprehensive approach to following up with people who have criminal backgrounds who shouldn’t have firearms.”
Another amendment to Hastings plans for SB44 would require state police to “confiscate the person’s Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, firearms, and ammunition that are in his or her possession” upon revocation of a persons FOID card.
Illinois State Police said that in 2018, more than 75 percent of the more than 10,800 FOID card revocation notices and subsequent Firearm Disposition Records were never returned.
Among efforts to tighten up the FOID card process, Illinois State Police officials said Wednesday that the agency will require district commanders to report directly to local law enforcement the names of people with revoked FOID cards.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement: “We must increase sharing of information, the quality and value of information shared, and most importantly enforcement.”
“Mailed letters are not enough,” he said.
Illinois State Police officials also said the agency will designate gun liaison officers in every investigative zone to collaborate and coordinate FOID revocation details with local law enforcement.
After reviewing Illinois State Police initiatives, state Sen. Neil Anderson, who has a bill to repeal the FOID card requirement, said FOID is not needed.
“It is an infringement on my Second Amendment right to have to pay to exercise that right,” said Anderson, R-Andalusia. “[FOID] is a redundancy in already federal law.”
He said all but a handful of other states don’t have a FOID card system, or something similar.
Hastings said his bill would address the loopholes he sees in the existing process.
“I just want to make sure that all of this works,” Hastings said. “I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t want to waste other people’s times and I want to fix the system so that we don’t have another Aurora. That’s the most important thing.”
Illinois State Police officials said there are more than 2.2 million active FOID cards in Illinois.
Pearson said he has yet to review Hasting’s amendments, and would comment after the final language has been filed.