Listen Live
Listen Live

On Air Now

Brushwood Afternoon Hits
Brushwood Afternoon Hits

Illinois State Police getting $32 million in state funds for FOID system expenses

SHARE NOW

(The Center Square) – After years of months-long backlogs in processing Firearm Owners Identification card applications, the Illinois State Police director on Wednesday touted what he called a modern, streamlined system, which he says is no longer experiencing a backlog.

The FOID Review Board reviews the decisions of the ISP in terms of if someone should or shouldn’t receive a FOID card.

ISP Director Brendan Kelly told The Center Square after a Senate committee hearing Wednesday that ensuring agencies like the FOID Review Board have stable funding keeps the backlogs low.

“The FOID backlogs are virtually near zero, but there are always potential improvements to the system that need to be made,” Kelly said. “In terms of the computer system, the online application process, … we work with the vendor that manages that computer system and that’s where some of that funding [nearly $32 million] goes, the stable funding allows us to review FOID cards in a timely manner.”

In late 2019, it was revealed there were 60,000 FOID card applications backlogged. In December 2020, around 145,000 pending FOID card requests were taking 121 days on average, double the 60 days cards are to be processed by law.

In the proposed fiscal year 2025 budget, the ISP wants nearly $32 million for expenses as outlined in the Firearm Concealed Carry Act and the FOID Act.

State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, raised a question about the FOID card system and an ongoing problem where email verification protocols are prolonging Illinoisans from renewing their FOID.

“When you apply to renew your FOID card, everything has to be done online and you have to give an email address. So my husband, who doesn’t get online very much, I helped him get his FOID renewed and I used my email to renew his FOID. I went to renew my own. I couldn’t renew mine,” said Bryant. “I know this is an ongoing problem [for my constituents]. Is that something you could look at as you use your funding?”

Kelly said that some of the appropriations will go toward correcting this hurdle but that “cybersecurity” is the reason why Illinoisans may be experiencing the issue.

State Sen. Mary Edly-Allen, D-Libertyville, asked how the agency is dealing with a recent administrative rule where the ISP started using a broader definition of what constitutes a clear and present danger when reviewing a person’s FOID card.

Kelly said in the last month, there have been 500 reports of individuals who pose a clear and present danger.

“It’s a tool that is used where medical professionals, school administrators and law enforcement can use to electronically report someone who has exhibited signs of homicidal or suicidal behaviors,” said Kelly. “We are verifying if they have firearms and a FOID card, and if they do, we work to appropriately and quickly revoke that FOID card. We are getting those reports all day, every day.”

Between January and September 2023, ISP investigated 10,144 clear and present danger reports. From those, 4,212 resulted in revoking a card or an application. Kelly said the change to the definition of clear and present danger isn’t coming at a higher cost to the taxpayer.

A portal was built into an existing system that allows law enforcement and others to report those who are a clear and present danger.

“Local law enforcement will report the clear and present danger, school administrators will report the clear and present danger, medical professionals and the DHS will report the clear and present danger, into the system. That process is fairly straightforward. It’s not a major lift,” said Kelly. “It’s a very important tool that law enforcement is using on a daily basis.”

The suspect in the July 4, 2022, Highland Park mass shooting that killed seven and injured dozens bought his weapons legally in Illinois with a valid FOID card. ISP granted the FOID card despite the suspect having been visited in 2019 by local police in response to a threat to his family. Local police reported a clear and present danger to state police. Kelly said at that time, state police had nothing else to act on to deny a FOID application, like a mental health prohibitor or a criminal record.

Despite Kelly’s explanation on how the clear and present danger tool is effective in keeping weapons out of the wrong hands, lawmakers are currently pushing to strengthen guidelines to get a FOID card. House Bill 3239 would require Illinois residents who want to buy a firearm to undergo eight hours of mandatory training and to go through additional background checks to obtain a FOID card. The bill remains in committee, though the sponsor said they won’t advance the measure this week.

There is also a statewide ban on certain semi-automatic firearms, attachments and ammunition magazines over a certain capacity enacted in January 2023 that Gov. J.B. Pritzker said “takes weapons of war and mass destruction off the street.” As part of the ban, Illinoisans in possession of so-called assault weapons have to register them with the ISP.

ISP data suggests a very small percentage of gun owners have registered their banned weapons. Kelly’s agency shared with The Center Square that from Oct. 1, 2023, to March 29, 2024, Protect Illinois Communities Act disclosure totals are at 36,302 individuals who have registered banned items. That means, of the more than 2.4 million Illinois residents who possess FOID cards, 1.47% have registered banned items with ISP.

Separate federal lawsuits are pending against the state’s gun ban and the FOID card law.

ISP is seeking a total of $923 million in Pritzker’s proposed budget.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.