In the years since a man who should not have been able to legally have a gun in Illinois fatally shot five people at a manufacturing plant in Aurora in early 2019, state legislators have failed to reach a consensus on legislation to help prevent similar incidents.
That may change come Wednesday, when the Illinois House is set to debate legislation (House Bill 562) that would establish a structure for law enforcement to remove guns from people whose Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) cards have been revoked.
The Aurora shooter’s FOID card had been revoked when a background check found he’d previously committed a felony, making him ineligible for a gun license in Illinois. But police never confiscated his guns.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said he plans to call the measure for a vote when the House returns for what’s scheduled to be a one-day special session.
“This I believe will save lives, and provide for a way to eliminate the (FOID card) backlog by modernizing it, and will encourage fingerprinting so you’re more easily able to have your card renewed,” Hoffman said. “It goes a long way to making sure that guns are kept out of the hands of non law-abiding citizens.”
Hoffman said it’s the first time in memory that a gun measure has the blessing of principal gun-control groups like the Gun Violence Prevention Action Committee and the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, even as the Illinois State Rifle Association, a gun rights group, is neutral.
The measure also expands background checks to all gun purchases, including those made person-to-person; requires records from private gun sales to be tracked for 20 years; creates a database of stolen guns; and establishes funding for community- and school-based mental health programs.
Applications for FOID cards have soared to the point that Illinois State Police haven’t been able to keep up. The holdup’s led to lawsuits from applicants who argue it’s a violation of their Second Amendment right.
Hoffman said the legislation will help the ISP manage the application pileup.
“There’s over 100 lawsuits about issues around FOID, and with the backlog as it exists, maybe one of these lawsuits will be successful,” Hoffman said. “If we don’t fix it then some of these lawsuits would be ripe for success, and getting rid of the FOID system would be awful in my mind.”
The Illinois Senate in late May previously passed the so-called “fix the FOID” bill, but the House never voted on it — representatives instead passed a different version that mandated fingerprinting for FOID applicants which was never called in the Senate.
The chambers’ inability to unite behind a single measure last month means it’ll be harder to get the bill to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk now.
Because it’s after a May 31 constitutional deadline, it needs to get support from a supermajority of 71 representatives, rather than a simple majority of 60.
Illinois State Riffle Association President Richard Pearson confirmed the organization will not fight the bill.
He said the ISRA is taking a neutral stance because the measure does both good and bad things for gun owners, like speeding up FOID card processing and mandating background checks for person-to-person sales.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, said she plans to advance House Bill 2908, which would make Chicago’s Board of Education an all-elected body by 2027.
“Every single other district in the state of Illinois has an elected school board. Our kids have been waiting and waiting to have a board that’s accountable to them and not just any particular mayor that’s been in office,” Ramirez said. “It’s time.”
The Senate approved the proposal in early June, meaning that if the House does the same, it would go to Pritkzer.
The Democratic governor said he supports an elected school board for CPS.
But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on the concept, is actively fighting the plan.
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