EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A backlog in the Illinois Firearm Owners’ Identification (FOID) card processing system is catching the attention of state lawmakers and local gun shop owners.
State representatives from the GOP are questioning the slow process and say law-abiding gun owners and small gun and ammunition shop owners are being hurt the most.
John Meek, the former owner and now salesman at Midwestern Firearms Company in East Peoria said the shop he works at helps people apply for both FOID and concealed carry permits. Recently, Meek said it’s taken those who apply close to a year to get their cards.
“They actually have been months behind and we have a lot of people come in and the reason we know that is they say hey we’ve applied here how come we haven’t got it,” Meek said.
Meek said the long list of gun owners waiting to get their cards affects when he can and cannot sell customers guns and ammunition.
“I think it’s wrong that they have to wait months and months to get that approval when it’s our Constitutional right,” Meek said.
According to the Illinois State Police (ISP), it takes an average of 121 days to process FOID card applications in the state. And without FOID cards, salesmen like Meek can’t legally sell customers firearms.
“We have to see a FOID card in order to sell ammunition, so if someone’s come in and says they applied, it’s ideal they have a receipt,” Meek said.
State police said the pandemic has slowed their processing along with 445,945 applicants as of November 2020. To help with this, ISP said they are hiring 32 new positions to approve the applications.
Meek said while he and his customers follow the rules, he doesn’t necessarily agree with them.
“We’re the only state that requires a FOID card, it’s a way of suppressing gun ownership and have proven to be a way to do that,” Meek said.
Wednesday afternoon, Republican lawmakers said many of their offices have received calls from their constituents from gun owners asking where their cards are. They said some have been waiting close to a year for their cards.
GOP members believe it’s infringing upon Illinoisans’ 2nd Amendment rights and said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker needs to do more. They said COVID-19 can’t continue to be the excuse.
C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) said the process has never been up to par.
“I understand it’s extended time, but we weren’t even hitting the mark before COVID started,” Davidsmeyer said.
The FOID card is currently being challenged in court and GOP state lawmakers said they’re challenging the law. Mike Marron (R-104th) said it has failed.
“It’s done nothing to curb gun violence in the state since it’s inception in the 1960s,” Marron said.
State police said the number of FOID card holders has grown from 1.2 million to 2.2 million in a decade.