A measure to require those seeking a Firearm Owner Identification card to submit fingerprints to the Illinois State Police advanced out of committee Tuesday after a party-line vote.

The amendment to Senate Bill 1966 would increase the fees for the Firearm Owner Identification, or FOID cards, from $10 to $50, and reduce the number of years the cards are valid from ten years to five years.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said it’s a way to close a loophole to ensure criminals don’t get firearms.

“We realize that in today’s society when we have over 10,000 FOID cards that get revoked every year, marked as up for revocation, it’s very difficult to handle that,” Willis said.

The man who killed five people at an Aurora warehouse earlier this year got a FOID card after lying about a previous felony conviction in another state. He bought a gun after that application was approved. Illinois State Police later revoked the man's FOID card in 2014 when he applied for a concealed-carry permit, which included fingerprints to speed up the application process. Illinois State Police rejected his concealed-carry application because the fingerprints submitted with that application flagged the man's 1995 felony conviction in Mississippi. The man didn't relinquish his FOID card or gun. ISP later reported there were more than 10,000 revocations in 2018, many of which were never followed up on.

Opponents of Willis’ measure said it went too far in response to the Aurora shooting.

State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, criticized the measure’s fingerprinting mandate.

“This bill is constitutionally offensive, it infringes on constitutional rights and is an attempt to curtail constitutional rights,” Parkhurst said.

Some argued fingerprinting should be required for certain jobs. State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the U.S. Constitution guarantees Second Amendment rights, not jobs.

“I had to be fingerprinted for the Department of Corrections,” Bryant said. “If I didn’t want to be fingerprinted I wasn’t going to be able to work for the Department of Corrections, I get that, but that job is not constitutionally guaranteed to me.”

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst asked Willis if she had concerns about the state managing a database with millions of gun owners’ fingerprints.

“I think it makes the state safer, in all honesty,” Willis said.

“Would you support mandatory fingerprinting for all citizens in Illinois?” Windhorst asked.

“If it makes the state safer, yeah,” Willis replied.

State Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, raised concerns about FOID fee essentially going from $10 for 10 years to $100 for the same amount of time.

“You could make a criminal out of a person who doesn’t get it renewed if they can’t afford the price at the time,” Turner said. “That’s a light bill. That’s groceries.”

Willis said she’d look into setting up an “indigent fund” to help people pay for the fees.

Todd Vandermyde, who represents licensed gun dealers, said the measure would force gun dealers to facilitate private firearm transfers.

“We have to take the firearm in. We have to inventory it. We have to store it. We’re liable for it if something happens to it,” Vandermyde said. “We then have to process [documents], call the state police, go through the waiting period, the individual has to come back. A lot of our members have said they’re not going to facilitate these transfers.”

Vandermyde said if that happens, then there will be areas where there would be no gun dealer willing to facilitate such a transaction.

“There are food deserts in the city [of Chicago]. Where’s a person who legally wants to comply with this in Englewood going to have to go to legally transfer a firearm if nobody within an hour of them is going to do it? That’s a problem.”

The measure is now poised for a full House vote. If passed there, the Senate would need to concur before it could go to the governor.

Asked about the measure last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it wasn’t a top priority.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.