By TIM KIRSININKAS
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House narrowly passed a bill Saturday that would require gun owners to submit fingerprints when applying for or renewing a Firearm Owner Identification card.
Representatives debated for over an hour and a half regarding House Bill 1091, otherwise known as the “Fix the FOID Act.” The bill passed with the minimum number of votes required in the House, 60-50.
The bill would require FOID card applicants to provide an electronic copy of their fingerprints to the Illinois State Police. It would also require background checks for all gun transfers – including person-to-person sales.
The bill would also reduce the length of time FOID cards remain valid from 10 years to five years, and up the renewal fee from $10 to $20. Chief bill sponsor Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, however, said the Senate would consider an amendment to the bill restoring the 10-year renewal period at a cost of $10.
Hirschauer said the bill is “a crucially important step” intended to close loopholes in the state’s FOID system, which she said contributed to a February 2019 mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora.
“The shooter, who had a conviction for a felony aggravated assault in Mississippi, was not legally allowed to own a gun in Illinois, but he lied on his FOID application,” Hirschauer said during debate on the bill. “His felony conviction was not detected until he submitted a fingerprint for his (Concealed Carry License), but by that time it was too late.”
Republicans raised concerns that the bill goes too far in infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and that a similar proposal with more agreeable terms is currently under consideration in the Senate.
A key point of contention is the mandatory fingerprinting provision.
Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said Republicans had originally planned for the Senate version of the bill to be called for consideration.
Hirschauer said HB 1091 could be amended in the Senate with the intention of gaining more Republican support.
Republicans further argued that halving the amount of time a FOID card remains valid could also contribute to the state’s already-severe FOID application backlog, and that most firearms used in violent crimes are acquired through illegal means.
“This is not about public health, not about public safety. It is just another gun grab in Illinois,” said Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna.
Democratic lawmakers argued the bill would be key to preventing firearms from getting into the hands of individuals who intend to cause harm.
“As legislators, we have a responsibility to fix our flawed FOID system and stop criminals from getting easy access to guns,” said Rep. Denyse Stoneback, D-Skokie. “It’s been more than two years since the Aurora shooting, and the public has been waiting for the Illinois legislature to act. We can’t just keep sending thoughts and prayers.”
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, praised the bill’s passage in a statement, saying the bill “offers proven measures to keep kids and families safe.”
“This is a straightforward proposal to address gun violence given the decades-long stalemate at the federal level, and I hope my Senate colleagues give it strong consideration,” Welch said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.