By GREG BISHOP, The Center Square
Illinois topped the list of all states for firearm background checks so far this year, and is already on pace to blow last year’s numbers out of the water. And reports persist of people waiting beyond the three-day waiting period to pick up the guns they’ve purchased.
There are also more than 143,000 Firearm Owner Identification, or FOID card, applicants still waiting for their cards to be processed by Illinois State Police.
A state representative says this is tantamount to civil rights being infringed.
Monthly records from the FBI’s NICS Firearm Background Checks report show in the first seven months of the year, there have been nearly 4.6 million checks. That dwarfs every other state, with only Kentucky coming close with 2.2 million checks from January through July.
Illinois’ total is nearly equal to all of the 4.9 million checks in 2019, leading the nation. It’s unclear how the pandemic that led to government shutdowns of the economy in March may have added to the demand in Illinois as there have been at least 610,000 checks a month since January, with July topping 714,000. The highest number of checks per month in 2019 for Illinois was 548,000 in December. The lowest number was 190,000 in February of that year.
Illinois State Police say as of Thursday, they have more than 5,300 pending firearm transfer inquiry program requests.
State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said aside from calls about problems with unemployment, his office is flooded with frustrated calls from constituents upset they’re Second Amendment rights are being infringed upon. And it’s not just gun owners.
“I got an email from a gun shop owner just a few days ago, there was eight or 10 transactions on there that were 10 days-plus old,” Halbrook said. “That doesn’t really help in times like this. They think that they are intentionally being throttled back on those kinds of things.”
ISP said there’s about a seven business day average wait for the FTIP requests to be processed.
In order to buy a gun or ammunition in Illinois, the consumer must have a valid FOID card.
In the first seven months of the year, ISP says it’s processed more than 87,000 FOID cards. But Thursday, state police said there are still 143,000 requests pending that include new applications, renewals and other requests like address changes.
Halbrook said the bureaucracy is failing to protect their rights.
“These are our constitutional rights, our liberties, and they’re being infringed upon,” Halbrook said. “I don’t care how you shake it out, how you spin it, that’s what’s happening.”
He said the failings have been going on long before COVID-19, and something has to be done.
“So, evidently we have a system that’s not working for the people, it’s broken, whatever you want to say and something has to be done, and it has to be done soon rather than later,” Halbrook said.
ISP said they are in the process of hiring new analysts to process applications, but that requires a minimum of six-months of training.
As to when a FOID card holder can apply for a renewal, ISP said such requests are permitted 90 days prior to the card’s expiration. Upon logging on to the ISP’s FOID website, an individual may see their card status is active and the issue date of the card, but the expiration date may say “COVID-19” instead of reflecting what’s on the physical card the holder provides a gun store.
The state’s FOID card system faces multiple lawsuits in both state and federal courts.