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Firearm enforcement programs crippled when financially-struggling Illinois swept funds



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CHATSWORTH – Fingers have been pointing at Illinois' Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) and Conceal Carry License (CCL) programs as to why the programs have not been timely in enforcing card revocations when law officials discover card holders that should not be allowed to legally possess firearms in Illinois. 

The programs were especially blamed when a shooter attacked workers in an Aurora, Illinois plant a year ago, killing several. Previous administrations had swept a substantial amount of the programs' funds and deposited them into the state's general fund coffers.

Last week Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan Kelly outlined steps that ISP has taken to manage the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) and Conceal Carry License (CCL) programs and laid much of the blame on funding issues.

From Director Kelly’s press conference on 02/13/2020:

  • “Over many years the fund supporting the background check process has been affected by budget crisis after budget crisis and in turn that has affected stable hiring and program build out.” (Livestream Interview 2:38 mark)
  • “…Over the years and multiple administrations, the funds that were in that particular fund have been swept for whatever reason through various budget crisis after budget crisis…” (Livestream Interview 10:28 mark)
  • “Well I would say it is not the Illinois State Police that have not managed the resources very well.” (Livestream Interview 20:15) 
  • “I don’t have any doubt in our ability to use those funds correctly, it’s more a question of whether or not that budget will be managed consistently and in a stable manner.” (Livestream Interview 20:38)

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) applauds Director Kelly and the Pritzker Administration for starting the process of fully staffing the FOID/CCL programs for the first time in many years but he said the funding issues would go away if the fund sweeps would stop.

“There is no need to take more money from honest gun owners because the problem is not that there is not enough money; the problem is that the money collected from the fees to operate the FOID card program are being used for other purposes,” Pearson said. “We stop the fund sweeps, and we take care of the funding problem. It is that simple.”

Director Kelly repeatedly indicated the FOID/CCL program was under funded by previous administrations as a response to ongoing budget crises. Those statements are troubling because the FOID an CCL programs are designed to be self-sufficient paid by user fees and not State General Revenue funds. Pearson said the fees paid by law-abiding firearm owners to exercise their constitutional right to own, possess, or carry a firearm should not be used for General State Spending. He said money from FOID card and Concealed Carry fees is enough to administer the program and any budget shortfalls have nothing to do with the economy or with the state budget.

Director Kelly used the lack of funding to advocate for SB1966 commonly referred to as the “Fix the FOID Act."  This bill calls for fingerprinting all FOID and CCL applicants and increasing the FOID fee by 300%. Director Kelly indicated this legislation is needed as a result of the Aurora shooting that killed five on February 15, 2019. The shooter, Gary Martin, was a felon that had his FOID card revoked April 17, 2014 but inexplicably never had his FOID card confiscated or surrendered his weapons.

After analyzing a Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) report dated September 10, 2019, covering FY2015-FY2019, the Illinois State Rifle Association found that ISP has not been spending resources available to manage the FOID/CCL programs. 

Specifically, the ISRA found:

  • In the Firearm Services Fund from FY2015-2019 ISP spent on average $7,474,500 per year.  They did not utilize an additional $9,376,563 per year available (over 125% unspent funds).
  • These unspent funds do not include close to $29.5 million dollars that were swept to the general revenue fund. 
  • The Aurora shooter had his FOID card revoked on April 17, 2014. In fiscal year 2015 following the revocation, ISP had $17,245,691 available to manage the FOID and CCL program. They spent $5,966,901.
  • This figure does not include $11,000,000 in the ISP State Services fund that was swept that year into the General Revenue fund.

“We at ISRA believe that ISP has enough resources to complete its’ mission without asking law abiding firearm owners for more money or forcing citizens to be fingerprinted to exercise a constitutional right,” Pearson said. “Furthermore, the Pritzker Administration should launch an investigation as to why previous administrations did not staff the FOID and CCL programs effectively.  Was this understaffing just incompetence or something more nefarious?  Law-abiding firearm owners deserve answers.”

For more information, log on to www.isra.org.


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  1. The FOID system is completely goofy as it is: the stated goal is to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who are legal ineligible to own them, but the FOID system does this by creating a list of individuals who ARE legally eligible to possess firearms, and this list is created by reference to data-bases of individuals who are INELIGIBLE to own firearms. Seems that it would be more efficient for the state to maintain a data-base of individuals who are legally ineligible to own guns and run the checks against it, rather than against the list of law-abiding folks. Assuming, of course, that the purpose of the FOID system is really to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and not, as it appears, to create bureaucratic stumbling blocks for the law-abiding.

  2. “Fund Sweep” is a politically-correct way to say the state STOLE the money from where it was intended to go.
    Some years ago their term was the funds were “borrowed.”
    But the “loan” was NEVER repaid.
    This is also the reason Illinois roads are in lousy shape: the gas-tax money was “borrowed” (STOLEN) as well.