A recently released state audit of the Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card program showed that – to put it simply – it’s a complete joke.
To elaborate, the FOID card program fails to do the main thing it was designed to do: prevent potentially dangerous people from obtaining a license to purchase firearms.
See, according to state law, FOID cards should be revoked or not be issued to people found incompetent to stand trial, are a danger to themselves or others, lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs, or have been found “not guilty by reason of insanity, mental disease or defect.”
But the audit found that, in 2010, only three of the 102 circuit court clerks (3%) submitted mental health court orders to the Illinois State Police (ISP). These court orders are, in part, how the ISP determines whether to deny, or potentially revoke, a FOID card.
Also distressing is that of the three court clerks (in three counties: Cook, Bureau and LaSalle) who actually reported in 2010, roughly half (46%) their submissions were incomplete or did not contain information determined by the ISP to be necessary, including date of birth, gender, or race. As a result, approximately 22% were not reported to the FBI’s NICS.
Perhaps making the understatement of the year, Auditor General William Holland wrote the following statement in the report, “[T]he effectiveness of the FOID card program is limited in promoting and protecting the safety of the public.”
The report argued that the failure of FOID lies in a legal loophole that states a judge “shall direct” the circuit clerk to forward the information to the state police. “Therefore,” the audit stated, “if not directed to do so by the court, the court clerk is not going to report” the names to the ISP.
[Of course, I would argue that even if all clerks in all counties were mandated to report, the state would still need to fix the incompetence, i.e. submitting incomplete reports].
“What is the purpose and why do we even have a FOID card section?” Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, a former assistant Cook County prosecutor, asked the Chicago Tribune.
“To me, the most important aspect of anything dealing with guns in state government is to make sure that guns are not getting into the hands of the wrong people, and in this case, there’s no way to block someone who has been determined to be (having a) mentally incapacity or a mental deficiency in 99 out of 102 counties, and that’s a problem,” he continued.
In addition to the underreporting of critical information, the FOID card program also proved to be a major pain in the butt for law-abiding applicants who often experienced lengthy delays in getting FOID forms processed.
The ISP is required to approve a FOID application within 30 days of receiving it. From 2008-2010, only 64 percent of applications were approved on time, within that 30-day window.
Another inadequacy uncovered in the audit was the FOID department’s horrible customer service. According to the audit, the “ISP did not have enough Customer Service Representatives to handle the volume of calls that are received by the Bureau related to the FOID card program.” The call logs showed that during the last quarter of 2010, 85 percent of FOID-related calls were not answered by the ISP.
And lastly, due to the fact that ISP was understaffed (or incompetent), from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2011, the State Police spent $526,919 on overtime for FOID card processing.
As of the end of 2011, roughly 1.4 million Illinoisans are FOID card-carrying gun owners. 78,000 people registered for FOID cards last year alone.
The solution to this problem is simple: scrap the costly and grossly inefficient FOID card program (which has apparently been wasting taxpayer dollars since 1968, the year in which it was created), legalize concealed carry, and mandate that court clerks report directly to the FBI’s national registry (NICS).
But alas! That solution is too sensible for politicians and bureaucrats in the Land of Lincoln, the only remaining state to outlaw concealed carry.
Instead, Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the ISP has a more politically apropos solution. She told the Chicago Tribune that the agency has developed a special task force “on communications between circuit courts and clerks” about the FOID law. “We’re working on that part of the process,” she said.