Police leaders urge speaking up, tightening gun control in wake of Pratt shooting
About 60 people gathered at an Elgin church Thursday night to ask what led to the killing of five people at a factory in Aurora in February, and what has been done to prevent similar killings.
The answers? More speaking up about people around us who show signs they could be dangerous to themselves or others even if those people don't have a criminal record.
Give state police more resources -- including money -- to effectively operate its system for checking people who apply for firearm owners identification cards.
And support changes to the FOID law to include raising the price of the card and to require applicants to be fingerprinted.
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman; Elgin Chief Ana Lalley; Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon; state Rep. Kathleen Willis; Lt. Col. David Byrd, assistant deputy director of the Illinois State Police; and Jessica Trame, bureau chief of the firearm owners identification division of the state police, participated in the discussion.
First Presbyterian Church and Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren organized the session. It was moderated by state Rep. Anna Moeller.
Trame explained the process of granting FOIDs, including checks for diagnosed mental illnesses, commitments to psychiatric institutions, and criminal records. The crowd gasped when it learned that her 50-person staff -- which also oversees concealed-carry licensing, and concealed-carry and FOID revocations -- receives about 180,000 FOID applications a year, and about 200,000 requests for renewals. Last year about 9,000 applications were rejected, she said.
The Pratt shooter had an FOID; he lied on the application, failing to report a felony conviction for battery in Mississippi. With the FOID, he legally bought a handgun. He later applied for a concealed-carry license, and the Mississippi conviction surfaced, so he was rejected.
Willis spoke about her "Fix the FOID" bill she introduced this spring, which would have raised the fees and required fingerprinting for FOID. The House passed the bill, but it was not called for a Senate vote.
One change would have required that more of the fee go to the FOID unit. Currently, only $3 of the $10 does.
Even if authorities are informed an FOID is revoked, without specific knowledge that a person owns guns, judges are not likely to grant search warrants based only on the revocation, they said.
"There is no way for us to know whether an individual physically has a gun in his or her home," McMahon said, because Illinois does not require owners to register guns with the state or local authorities.
Ziman noted that the Pratt shooter didn't present any red flags to Aurora police. He had been charged with domestic battery, but he had also been the victim of domestic battery. He had worked for the factory for 15 years but had "minor" disciplinary issues. He was going to be disciplined that day for a safety violation.
The biggest red flag -- one that was missed -- was that he told a co-worker that morning that if he was fired, he was going to kill the people firing him. The co-worker, who knew Pratt kept a gun in his car, told police he didn't take the statement seriously.
And when asked if a national gun registry, national FOID and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun would help, Ziman responded, "Yes, yes, yes, yes."
She acknowledged there are Second Amendment concerns raised by law-abiding gun owners.
"I don't know that anyone of us can solve" the complex problem, she said. "But the place to start is at a registry. If you are going to bear arms, why not register them?"