Fingerprints optional with Senate FOID bill House could take up

(The Center Square) – Fingerprints wouldn’t be mandatory for Firearm Owner’s Identification card applicants with a Senate Bill the Illinois House is expected to take up when they return to Springfield Wednesday.

The Illinois House returns to the capital city Wednesday and while they could take up an energy bill, it’s also expected they could take up changes to the state’s beleaguered FOID system.

Since before the pandemic, there have been mounting backlogs of FOID renewal applications and new applications. One review of data from the Illinois State Police website indicates the backlog has doubled since January 2020. Many applicants have waited months beyond the 30 days the state has to process applications.

There were competing bills addressing the state’s FOID card law at the capitol last month some say will help ISP work down the backlog. One passed the House that required FOID applicants to submit fingerprints.

During debate last month for the House version, state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said the opposition to mandating fingerprints is extreme.

“The witness slips that were filed in committee were in the thousands opposed,” Wheeler said. “We’ve already seen this show before. The Senate has an answer. We should listen for that.”

While the House version passed, it wasn’t taken up by the Senate.

The Senate passed a bill supported by ISP Director Brendan Kelly.

“We need to be able to get past this backlog and focus on the things that are threats to public safety,” Kelly said. “And many of the elements included in this bill will help us to do that.”

The measure ISP supports would combine the FOID card with a Concealed Carry License, allow for ISP to get address information directly from the Secretary of State and make fingerprints optional as a way to speed up the process, among other changes.

The Senate version doesn’t have everything some may have wanted, Kelly said.

“But by doing this streamlining we’ll be able to bring down the backlog that’s this continuous cycle that we’ve been trapped in in this state when it comes to renewals, we’ll be able to bring that down and we’ll be able to focus on enforcement,” Kelly said.

Other elements ISP says House Bill 562 includes “more focus on new applications and identifying potential threats.” Those provisions include:

Allowing renewal applications six months in advance of an expiration dateBring about an electronic FOID card and CCL optionAllow CCL while huntingNo increase in FOID card fee

There are also provisions in the Senate bill regarding private transfers, requiring person-to-person transfers to be subject to federal background checks through either a federally licensed firearms dealer or through online verification with ISP.

Another element of the Senate bill creates an online portal for law enforcement agencies to review the status of individual FOID cards. The bill also includes a FOID card review board with appeals decisions made within 45 days.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, expects the House to take up the Senate bill when members return Wednesday.

“Our district office has heard an endless stream from people who are having a really hard time getting their FOID card,” Guzzardi told WMAY.

With a backlog of tens of thousands of applicants waiting months on end for their applications to be processed, there are around a dozen lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging the state’s FOID law and procedures.

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