(The Center Square) – Republicans and Democrats at the Illinois statehouse acknowledge something has to be done about the state’s Firearm Owner Identification card and Illinois State Police officials say they have the answer.

The state’s FOID card has been around since the 1960s. Illinois is the only state in the region that requires residents to possess a state-issued FOID card. Several years ago, the state was mandated by the courts to create a process for people to legally carry firearms and lawmakers approved a Concealed Carry License.

But, for more than a year there have been backlogs in applications being processed in the tens of thousands. Even state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, gets calls about the backlogs.

“My mother is 82 years old and she’s telling me she needs her firearm card, that she hasn’t gotten it, it’s been months, so it’s really amazing,” Ford told WMAY Tuesday.

Ford said that if the FOID process doesn’t provide value, it should probably be discontinued.

Wednesday, outside the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly stood with a group of lawmakers in support of a bill in the House and in the Senate he says will modernize the system.

“So, to streamline the existing ad hoc firearms statutes and focus our resources on threats to safety, the ISP is requesting legislation to consolidate the FOID and CCL card into a single card,” Kelly said. “We need to bring this system into the 21st Century and ensure that we make it hard for the bad guys and simple and safe for the good guys.”

Kelly said the measure does not require any more taxpayer funds. The measure also won’t increase the $10 fee for FOID, nor decrease the ten-year time frame. But, it would have options for applicants to provide fingerprints and get a digital card.

Despite Illinois being the only state in the region requiring such a permit, Kelly defended the requirement in Illinois.

“There have been over 5,000 attempts just this year by people to attempt to obtain a firearm illegally that were stopped as a result of that background check process,” Kelly said, noting the state’s system sometimes catches prohibited people the federal system doesn’t and visa versa.

Sponsors of the bill plan a subject matter hearing on the legislation later this month.

Gun control groups said the measure doesn’t go far enough.

“[The] bill guts real universal background checks in exchange for nothing,” said Kathleen Sances, President of Gun Violence Prevention PAC Illinois.

Sances’ group supports a different bill that would require fingerprints to get a FOID card and also increase the costs.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.