ILLINOIS (IRN) — The persistent delays in issuing Firearm Owner’s Identification cards in Illinois that has doubled in the last year-and-a-half continues after a federal judge shot down a motion this week seeking to force the state to issue backlogged cards. Illinoisans who want to legally buy or own firearms and ammunition must have a FOID card issued by Illinois State Police. Penalties for not having one when owning a firearm depend on the circumstances, but can range from a misdemeanor to a felony charge with up to three years in prison.
It’s approaching two years of reports of backlogs in FOID card applications. Some people have been waiting for months, if not more than a year. Back in January 2020, Illinois State Police posted an update on the agency’s Facebook page that said it has about “62,000 FOID applications under review which includes new, renewals and changes.” The backlog problem has more than doubled since, compounded by increased applications during the pandemic, increased urban crime and civil unrest over the past 18 months.
From April 2020 through April 2021, Illinois State Police data shows there were a total of 160,452 FOID renewal applications. Of that 103,551 were approved, 271 denied. That leaves nearly 57,000 renewals backlogged. During the pandemic, ISP issued emergency rules to extend expired FOID cards for 18 months after the governor’s emergency declaration is lifted. That doesn’t help new FOID applicants. For the year ending in April, ISP statistics show 332,862 new FOID applications submitted. Of that, 246,551 were approved and 17,354 were denied. That leaves a backlog of nearly 69,000 individuals whose initial applications have not been processed. FOID renewals combined with the initial applications equals approximately 126,000 backlogged applications or more than double what it was 18 months ago. Previous ISP statements have said the average wait is more than 120 days.
Alongside the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation, Goldwater Institute attorney Jacob Huebert sued in federal court. “When they enacted [the FOID Act] they recognized that they needed to do something to respect people’s Second Amendment rights so they put that 30-day limit in there and then they went on to totally disrespect it and it only got worse,” Huebert told WMAY. mA judge Wednesday struck down their motion to force the state to immediately issue backlogged cards, saying while the delays are a burden, it’s not severe enough to render the process unconstitutional.
Huebert disagreed. “This is a total deprivation of Second Amendment rights until the state gets around to acting on your FOID card application, and to some people that can be the difference between life and death,” Huebert said. The case is still alive at the trial level but it’s likely going to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Huebert said the state is supposed to process applications within 30 days.
“If they can’t do that then they should scrap the whole scheme, and the courts should enjoin the whole FOID card act,” Huebert said. “If these people can’t process these cards within 30 days then they shouldn’t being doing this at all and they should respect people’s second amendment rights in the first place.”
The case is expected to eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gun groups have filed about a dozen legal challenges in state and federal courts over the state’s firearms laws.
When they return next week, Illinois lawmakers could take up measures some say will help streamline the FOID process.