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Changes Are Being Made to Illinois FOID Act
By Bill Hoagland
Gun owners in Calhoun County and elsewhere in Illinois may be pleased to know that an attempt is being made by the State of Illinois to improve the ability to apply for and to renew the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card, which have been required in Illinois for almost 50 years. Illinois is the only state that requires all resident gun owners to have a firearms identification card if they own or possess a firearm or ammunition. This act, known as the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Act, has become increasingly unpopular for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the administrative delays in applying for an identification card and getting a renewed card in a timely manner. The original act required that applications be approved or declined within 30 days but even before the pandemic, the issuing agency had tremendous backlogs; many applicants were waiting six months to receive their cards. Without the cards, these gun owners were in limbo and not happy.
So under General Assembly Bill 102-0237, which becomes effective on January 1, 2022, a number of changes have been made to the Act, including the requirement that all applications for a FOID card must be approved or denied within 30 days. There are other changes as well. The new cards will not have an expiration date written on the card but they do expire 10 years after they are issued. Six months prior to the expiration date, the State Police must notify the card holder by mail that the card will expire in 180 days. The card holder must then file an application for renewal and applications for renewal must be acted upon within 60 days from the time the renewal application is received. It is hoped that these measures will improve the administrative delays.
This legislation also creates a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Review Board, who’s function it will be to review the circumstances under which the issuance of a card has been denied for whatever reason. It also requires that starting on January 1, 2024, that there must be a universal background check on all gun sales, including exchanges between private owners. The legislation allows for fingerprinting of card holders but does not make fingerprinting mandatory yet. The legislation does provide for the creation and use of “electronic” cards, meaning cards that can be carried on one’s cellphone or other electronic device and again, that is to speed up the process of issuing cards.
Despite these and other changes, the Act has been and will continue to be an unpopular piece of legislation among gun owners in Illinois. One objection is that it identifies all gun owners in the state and if there is ever a law requiring the confiscation of guns, gun owners in Illinois will be the first to get that knock on the door. But beyond that, the Act may be an intrusion on Second Amendment rights. That is because the US Supreme Court has ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that gun owners have a constitutional right to keep and maintain a firearm in their homes for protection and this right logically would seem to exist regardless whether the homeowner has an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification Card or not. (If interested, see the discussion of this issue in People v. Vivian Brown, which was appealed and decided on other grounds by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2020. In that case, the Illinois Supreme Court ducked the issue by holding that the Act does not apply with respect to guns or ammo kept in a residence for protection.)
Maybe these legislative changes will improve the situation but I suspect that at some point, the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Act will either be rescinded by the General Assembly or it will be declared unconstitutional.
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.