(The Center Square) – An Auditor General review of the Illinois State Police’s handling of Firearm Owner’s Identification Card and Concealed Carry License applications shows ISP is not following the law.
The audit was for 2018 and 2019. Even before the pandemic, there were delays in applications being processed in the timeframe allowed by law. Delays impacted around 1 in 10 applicants in 2018 and increased to about 1 in 4 in 2019.
For 2020 and into 2021, years not part of the audit, the average wait times were far beyond the 30 days allowed by law.
“Average processing times has dropped from 205 days in July of 2021 to less than 190 days in September of 2021,” ISP said in the auditor’s report.
New FOID cards are to be processed within 30 days and renewals within 60 days.
CCL must be completed within 90 days with an additional 30 days if no fingerprints are provided. Around 93% of the CCL applications were completed on time in 2018, but that dropped to less than half, or 48%, completed within the timeframe allowed by law.
Before the audit was released Thursday, ISP said in a news release it has decreased the backlog, but not entirely.
ISP said it “has reduced backlogs by 89 percent for renewals and 75 percent for new applicants.”
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the problem with the persistent delays is new applicants’ rights are being denied.
“If you’re applying for a renewal of your card, at least we have it in place where that card gets extended even though you don’t get the new card in the mail, but for new applicants we are literally violating their constitutional rights,” Butler told WMAY before the audit was released.
The audit also revealed ISP recovered a fraction of revoked FOID cards and CCLs. The report shows ISP recovered fewer than half the number of revoked FOID cards in 2018 and fewer than a third in 2017. The agency had even fewer recovered CCL cards that were revoked, as low as 14 percent in 2019.
Among six total recommendations from the Auditor General, one was to streamline the process altogether and eliminate duplication and manual checks.
ISP responded to some of the audit’s recommendations that a law recently enacted through House Bill 562 will help modernize the process.
Butler has a recommendation.
“I think we just need to get rid of the FOID card,” Butler said. “I think in today’s environment where we have instant background checks … I bought a handgun last year, went through the process, got the background check, waited the 72 hours. You didn’t need a FOID card to make that purchase with that stuff in place.”
The audit said ISP recognized that “essentially anything checked during a FOID background check is also checked during [a Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program] transaction” when someone buys a firearm.
Another recommendation from the Auditor General was to ensure all applicants are dealt with within the timeframes allowed by law. ISP officials agreed and said they’re hiring more personnel, but blamed extensive delays on social unrest and the pandemic, though the pandemic and social duress in 2020 was not part of the audited years.
Another recommendation was to ensure sheriffs are notified and for ISP to work with local law enforcement to obtain revoked FOID cards. ISP said it is actively working and holding seminars in ISP zones, but said it has limited ability to comply with the recommendation without any authority to force compliance with outside agencies.
The next recommendation was to include enforcement details to ensure consistent enforcement across the state. ISP said a new Statewide Gun Coordinator will be staffed starting in October.
The fifth recommendation was for ISP to establish a case management system for appeal and update administrative rules for an appeal process. ISP agreed and laid out steps to comply. It notes administrative rules filed Aug. 30, 2021, more accurately reflect its appeals process and HB562 brings about extensive changes with a process laid out.
The final recommendation was for ISP to update administrative rules to reflect the process for determining issuance date and expiration. ISP said it’s submitted such rules.
The FOID and CCL process faces about a dozen lawsuits from gun groups in state and federal courts.