EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — A local Illinois lawmaker seeks to repeal a state-required identification card for residents to buy and own guns.
State Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, filed a bill this month that would eliminate Firearm Owners Identification Card requirements. Illinois residents who want to purchase or possess guns or ammunition in the state must apply and be approved to receive a card.
To be eligible, applicants must not have been convicted of a felony, not have been a patient in a mental health facility in the past five years and not have been diagnosed with intellectual disability, among other requirements.
Chesney said the program has become outdated and an unnecessary burden on gun owners.
“It’s a broken and antiquated system,” he said. “It doesn’t help anything, and it’s only making life harder for gun owners in the state.”
Chesney said the application process largely duplicates federal background checks, which are required for gun purchases nationwide and take a relatively short time to complete.
In contrast, Illinois State Police faces a backlog of FOID card applications, creating delays for firearm owners looking to apply for or renew their cards. According to Illinois State Police, the average processing time for a FOID application as of January 2021 is 121 days.
“You have situations where people are waiting for months and are unable to do anything,” Chesney said.
John Ohnesorge, of East Dubuque, said he and other local gun owners are often hindered by what he called a convoluted application process for a FOID card.
“Illinois State Police can’t keep up with the demand, especially during COVID,” he said. “A lot of people are waiting for up to a year, and they can’t do anything until it arrives.”
William Hollenbeck, owner of Three Nails Gunsmithing in East Dubuque, said he believes the cards are necessary and help preliminarily identify people eligible to purchase firearms.
“I like having a system where I know that I can legally deal with this person,” he said.
However, he said he thinks the system is currently poorly implemented and that reforms are needed to expedite the application process.
“The system is so flawed that it isn’t even funny,” Hollenbeck said. “That doesn’t mean you get rid of it entirely, but it does need to be revamped.”