Local voices: Urge Illinois Senate to pass bill improving FOID process

  • Elliott Hartstein

    Elliott Hartstein

Updated 1/10/2021 10:51 PM

Contact your own state senator and urge them to pass SB1966 -- the BIO Bill -- before noon Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Gun violence prevention remains an issue that needs to be addressed at both the state and national level. Today I would like to focus on what we can do here in Illinois.


We are fortunate that a strong coalition of advocates along with some dedicated legislators have made some significant headway in Springfield, but we need to push harder to see some important progress come to fruition.

There is an important piece of legislation that was passed by the Illinois House but still needs to get approved by the Illinois Senate and signed by the Governor. SB 1966 -- the Block Illegal Ownership Bill/Fix the FOID. The bill was put together to address major issues that came to the forefront after a 2019 shooting in Aurora where an employee killed 5 people and injured 5 others despite the fact that the shooter had a revoked Firearm Owner Identification Card.

Current law requires individuals to get a FOID card to buy a gun. One can apply by mail, and after a background check can get a card that will allow one to buy unlimited number of guns for 10 years. If a card holder becomes prohibited from gun possession, Illinois State Police send a notice of revocation and directs the card holder to surrender the guns and confirm they have done so.

The Aurora shooter had received a FOID card in January 2014 despite a 1995 aggravated assault conviction that should have caused him to fail a background check. When the shooter applied for a concealed carry permit that required fingerprints, it turned up the conviction. His permit was denied and a notice was sent for him to surrender all firearms, which he did not do, and the state never followed up.

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SB Bill 1966, which has already passed the House, includes many provisions to help address the problems that came into focus. It requires applicants for a FOID card to apply in person. It requires applicants to submit fingerprints. It requires a point-of-sale background check for all gun sales including those by unlicensed sellers. It requires action by law enforcement once a FOID card is revoked. It reduces card duration from 10 years to 5 years, which will require more frequent background checks. It gives more discretion to deny concealed carry permits if there is reason to believe person poses risk to themselves or others.

The bottom line is that it ensures people with violent criminal histories are prohibited from gun possession and not able to easily evade law and arm themselves. While the bill has been in Senate awaiting action during the COVID-19 delays, 7,752 Illinoisans have been shot, we have lost 100 kids to gun violence and more than 36,000 guns remain in hands of people who have had their FOID cards revoked but not surrendered.

We need to urge the Illinois Senate to pass SB 1966 during the January lame duck session this week. If it is not passed at that time, it will need to be reintroduced this year and go through the entire legislative process in both the Illinois House and Senate. We cannot afford delay this bill, which can save lives and reduce gun violence. When Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks for purchase of a permit and at point of sale, homicides dropped 40%. Let's not miss this opportunity to make a dent in gun violence in Illinois at the earliest possible time.

Call your Senators to urge action and help call other Senators to urge them to pass SB 1966 and support the Illegal Ownership Bill and Fix the FOID! Get involved in groups like Moms Demand Action and other groups that are working on gun violence prevention. Support and help with Days of Action. We must get Senate to pass before noon Wednesday, Jan. 13, or we have to start over this year.

• Elliott Hartstein of Northbrook is a former village president of Buffalo Grove.

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