SPRINGFIELD — Illinoisans soon may have to be fingerprinted and pay an increased fee to be a licensed gun owner in the state.
In the wake of a shooting at an Aurora workplace in February that left five people dead, lawmakers have debated how to better track Firearm Owners Identification Card holders who have had their licenses revoked.
Senate Bill 1966 was advanced to the full House on Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee on a vote along party lines. Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, an amendment to the bill would require new FOID card holders and those renewing their license to submit to a fingerprint. It also would increase application fees from $10 to $50, and reduce the time a license is valid from 10 years to five years.
Willis said the purpose of the bill is to “keep up” with FOID revocations and create better communication between local and state law enforcement agencies.
“One of the reasons that we saw that revocations were not followed up as best as they could was because there was no money in resources to be able to do that,” Willis said.
State Police Lt. John Thompson testified Tuesday about the challenges his agency faces with the limited funds it receives for FOID revocation enforcement.
He said the fee of $10 for 10 years isn’t enough to sustain the nearly 1,000 applications the department receives daily.
“We’re running a very, very basic operation, and it’s not what’s expected of us and we need to do better,” Thompson said.
Ed Sullivan, on behalf of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said fees required for concealed-carry permits have amounted to $78 million over 10 years.
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“So tell me, please, somebody, where’s the lack of money?” Sullivan asked.
Sullivan said what happened in Aurora was a “systematic failure of government” that could have been avoided if the shooter’s FOID card had been taken, and added that the bill being presented does little to address those failures.
The problem, Sullivan said, “is not going and taking FOID cards from people who shouldn’t have them.”
Republicans who spoke Tuesday opposed additional requirements to exercise rights guaranteed in the constitution.
Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said the Aurora shooting is being used by “gun grabbers” to enact more laws to reduce access to firearms.
Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, the committee’s Republican spokesperson, said she would never vote for a law that mandates fingerprints for any constitutional right.
Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, said he was fine with everything in the bill and supports “sensible gun laws,” but believes the increased FOID card costs would be a burden to those in poorer communities.
“If I have to pay hundreds of dollars, potentially, to have a FOID card, I’m worried that you’re going to price out certain communities that can’t afford to pay that,” Turner said. “ … You could make a criminal out a person who’s already a FOID card holder that didn’t get it renewed because they couldn’t afford it at the time.”