(The Center Square) – People in Illinois who want to buy guns could have to wait six months.
Valina Rowe of the gun rights group Illinois Carry says unnecessary logjams in the background check processes in Illinois have her members fuming.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020, Illinois has experienced an unprecedented demand for firearms. Because the Illinois State Police (ISP) are swamped with buyer applications, ISP have been unable to issue Illinois’ required Firearm Owner IDs (FOIDs) in a timely manner in cases. According to state law, FOID cards are supposed to be issued in 30 days or less. Yet in 2020 and 2021, people have been waiting four or five or even six months before they get their FOID cards.
Illinois Carry supports a lawsuit now before the state Supreme Court that argues that the process is unconstitutional.
Rowe said that the FOID system is broken and obsolete.
“The law says that a FOID application will be processed within 30 days – background checks done and the FOID issued – so long as the person does not have any prohibiting factors in their background. Instead, it is taking about 140 days,” she said.
Rowe says people are surprised to learn that in Illinois, a person cannot go to a gun store, buy a gun and drive away with it on the same day.
To buy a firearm in Illinois, the first step is applying for and receiving a FOID card from ISP. Then purchasers need go to a gun shop and pick out a firearm. Before they can walk out of the store with the gun, however, there is a 72-hour waiting period whether they are buying a handgun, long gun or shotgun.
During that time, the sale is called in to the ISP for an Illinois background check, which is known as a Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program check or FTIP. The FTIP check must be completed before the ISP can issue the required verification number to the firearm dealer that will allow the gun sale to go forward.
“The FTIP is supposed to be done within three days, but we see that FTIP checks are taking three, four, five weeks because of a backlog with the Illinois State Police,” Rowe says.
Gun buyers should not count on taking their gun home within the three-day waiting period, she warns.
“It could be three days before you can take possession of the firearm or it can be three or four weeks. It is not a cut-and-dried amount of time,” Rowe says.
Rowe calls the entire firearm purchase process in Illinois “egregious.” She says Illinois is one of only three states in the country where you have to have an identification card to possess a firearm or ammunition.
“The FOID process is an old, outdated, obsolete system that needs to be done away with,” Rowe said. “We now have the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) that ISP can use. Illinois should join the 21st Century with modern technology and NICS, that other states have been using for years.”
ISP officials have said they are working to improve the system and have also sought legislative changes. Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly previously said the agency needs authority from the Illinois state legislature to “untangle and integrate” Illinois’ gun owner licensing laws.