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Illinois State Police Supports Fingerprinting FOID Applicants

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly speaking at a press conference alongside Deputy Director Isaiah Vega.
Mike Smith
NPR Illinois
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly speaking at a press conference alongside Deputy Director Isaiah Vega.

The Illinois State Police is supporting legislation that would fingerprint applicants for the Firearm Owners Identification card.

The change is meant to help flag people with violent criminal histories and prevent them from owning firearms.

ISP Director Brendan Kelly said fingerprinting would make his job a lot easier.

“Will that help us get the job done better – having that fingerprint?” Kelly asked. “The answer is absolutely yes. It is part-and-parcel law enforcement. It’s common sense that fingerprints catch bad guys.”

The proposal is getting more attention on the one-year anniversary of a workplace shooting in Aurora that left five dead along with the gunman. The Aurora shooter lied about his criminal background on his FOID card application. He had his FOID card revoked, but his guns were never taken away.

Kelly said fingerprinting could have prevented the tragedy.

“That bill will provide additional resources necessary to sustain and improve our efforts to improve our access to fingerprint-associated records across the country, and to support local law enforcement’s ability to accomplish this public safety mission,” Kelly said.

Kelly said there are over 2.2 million FOID card holders in the state. The measure, which passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate, would increase the FOID application and renewal fee from $10 to $50, with the extra money going toward enforcement of FOID laws, among other purposes. It would also shorten the length of time a FOID card is valid from 10 years to five.

Flaws in the FOID system have led to several tragedies in the last year; on Friday the Chicago Tribune reported on the murder of 18-month-old Colton Miller, killed by his father, who should have had his firearms taken away.

ISP said the lack of resources has made revocation of firearms a difficult process.

Sponsoring Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, said she has assurances from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration that he would sign the legislation if it hits his desk.

Morrison also said the legislation could help with backlogged requests for FOID cards and concealed-carry licenses.

“More funding would go to the state police to help them do the job that we’re charging them with, which is to do the processing and administration of the FOID card,” Morrison said.

The Illinois State Rifle Association is suing the state police over delays in processing select FOID card applications. Gun-rights activists have criticized Morrison’s proposal as “overreaching.”

She called their opposition “fear-mongering.”

“[They are] telling people across the state that their guns are going to be stripped away from them, that their rights are going to be violated; none of that is true,” Morrison said.

Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, said incidents like the one in Aurora can only be prevented with strong legislation.FOID

“Families across Illinois are no safer than they were one year ago when the shooting occurred,” Sances said.

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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