FOID Requirements: Should They Go Away?

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Since 1968, anyone wanting to legally purchase or possess a firearm or firearm ammunition in the State of Illinois had to apply for and receive a firearm owners identification card.

A local lawmaker wants that to change in the near future, but some local lawmen in his district defend the FOID card system.

State Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator), a first-year representative whose district includes parts of La Salle, Putnam, Bureau and Livingston counties, submitted House Bill 699, his first bill, that would repeal the FOID Act and make it unnecessary for gun buyers to have an identification card before purchase. The bill is co-sponsored by 10 other legislators.

Long, who ran on a strong Second Amendment platform but not specifically on doing away with FOID cards, says the cards stop more law-abiding citizens from getting firearms while criminals are able to access guns at any time.

“Gangs don’t care about FOID cards. Gangs don’t care about concealed carry. Gangs don’t care about any of that.”

Long had an issue with FOID himself, almost losing his concealed carry privileges in Florida and Utah because of the slow turnaround when he reapplied as his card was expiring.

“It came down to the last few weeks....It was a concern of mine,” Long said.

He went on to quote the figures that 70 percent of murders in the state of Illinois have been committed by people with stolen guns and 60 percent of all crime involving guns have been used with stolen weapons — citing a recent Associated Press article, “Gangs reap guns from trains in violent Chicago neighborhoods,” as proof of weapons being stolen.

A 2014 study by the City of Chicago tracing seized guns used in crimes contradicts Longs assertion, finding that most of the guns — 60 percent — were purchased legally, mostly from nearby states, such as Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin, with weaker gun laws.

Long asserts, though, that the FOID regulations are redundant, requiring the same background checks by multiple agencies.

“If the Illinois State Police want to do a background check on somebody, they have the ATF and other federal background checks that are necessary when we purchase a handgun or a rifle,” Long said. “I’m a member of a gun club over here in Streator ... and they like the idea of the elimination of the FOID card. I have heard from both sides ... 10 people versus 300, 400, 500 people.”

Long said he is representing his district, which he says, is pro-gun, pro-concealed carry, and pro-Second Amendment.

Defending gun ownership and the FOID card

One of the constituents in Long’s district is Hennepin Mayor Kevin Coleman.

Coleman is a gun owner, hunter, and FOID card carrier. He also is against the proposed bill.

“There are enough people being killed in this state, with guns, why make it easier?” Coleman said. “I think it’s nuts.”

Coleman has owned a FOID card since it was first required, having purchased guns from licensed dealers throughout that time.

“I’ve never heard anyone complaining about it (FOID cards),” Coleman said. “People who are qualified to have guns have guns. It’s really strange that this pops up now from Jerry Long that never said anything about this during his campaign.”

Coleman shared an anecdote about a trip to Missouri years ago where he was able to purchase and pick up a gun on the same day, lending credence to the Chicago study.

Law Enforcement

Putnam County sheriff Kevin Doyle, like Long is a big believer in the Second Amendment, but says the FOID cards have become a system of checks and balances for the police, a sentiment echoed by Detective John Atkins of the Peru Police Department.

“I think it (the FOID program) has worked in general, and the biggest thing is, Illinois residents have just become accustomed to it,” Doyle said. “Now they are doing a lot more revocation of FOIDs through domestic battery ... or mental health issues and we’re getting notifications that we revoked their FOID.”

Atkins says the FOID has its benefits.

“It’s able to identified people who can have firearms and firearms ammunition,” said. “It’s easier for us to identify people who are able to have firearms from a law enforcement point of view, because they (the state police) already do the background check.”

Atkins, who taught concealed carry classes in the past, has heard people complain about having to get FOID cards, most because of the fee.

“I just told them that was the legislation since 1968 and that was a way to identify people that were eligible to carry firearms and firearm ammunition.”

Doyle, who is an avid hunter, says he hasn’t heard anyone complaining about having to get a FOID card, and said wait times have been lower recently for the $10, 10-year application.

It also isn’t an issue to get a FOID card, according to Doyle, if you don’t have anything criminal in your background. And even if you do have something minor, there are ways to clear up issues.

“I have had others come in that have had revoked FOID cards for prior crimes that didn’t believe it should (be revoked) and I’ve helped them go down the right avenues with the Bureau of Identification to get their FOID card back,” Doyle said. “I’ve never had anybody coming in with nothing in their background saying ‘Hey the state police won’t give me my FOID’.”

Atkins says whether FOID is there or not, life will continue on for the police.

“We treat everyone armed the same way. You never know,” Atkins said. “The people who are going to carry guns illegally are going to do it anyway. We’ll still be able to figure out who are firearms owners anyway, just from past knowledge and records keeping. It’s nice to have the information, but it’s not going to change the way we police.”

Source: News Tribune