FILE - guns, Illinois

An assortment of firearms are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield in 2013.

Lawmakers diverted nearly $30 million over the past five years from Illinois State Police funds to cover other government spending, something a statewide gun-rights group said was unacceptable.

About 2.3 million Illinoisans hold a Firearm Owners' Identification Card that allows them to buy and own firearms. The card costs $10 for 10 years with $6 going to the Wildlife and Fish Fund, $3 to the State Police Firearm Services Fund and $1 for the State Police Services Fund.

Concealed carry licenses cost $150 for five years. Of that, $120 goes to the State Police Firearm Services Fund, $20 goes to the Mental Health Reporting Fund and $10 goes to the State Crime Laboratory.

The State Police Firearm Services Fund is meant to administer the state’s Firearm Owner Identification Card law, conduct background checks for firearms-related services and concealed-carry licensing.

A memo from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability sent to state Rep. Kieth Wheeler, R-Oswego, in September showed that in fiscal years 2015 through 2019 more than $13 million was swept from the State Police Firearm Services Fund for other purposes.

State lawmakers have often used fund sweeps to shore up spending in other areas.

“The Department did not answer our questions about the effects of the fund transfers (whether they affected firearm services operations),” the November memo said.

An Illinois House Republican staff member requested the memo.

The Illinois State Rifle Association said another $15 million was swept from a different fund, the State Police Services Fund, for a total of $28.5 million in sweeps over five years.

“Clearly, there is not a problem in lack of money from these fees, but an improper allocation of how the money is being spent,” ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson said. “It is unconscionable for the Governor and the Legislature to ask for honest gun owners to pay more money for a Constitutional Right when the money they are already paying is going to fund other programs and services.”

A measure that’s stalled at the statehouse would increase the price of a FOID card while decreasing the length of time it would be valid. That measure, Senate Bill 1966, would also require FOID applicants to submit fingerprints.

Pearson said such sweeps should be stopped to ensure 100 percent of the money collected from the FOID card and CCL applications goes toward intended purposes.

“Beyond the delays and problems in the FOID and ICCL program, these fund sweeps are hampering citizens from exercising their Constitutional Right,” Pearson said. “Our office gets daily calls from people who are having difficulties navigating the FOID card process so it’s no wonder we see these problems, given a significant portion of the money intended to fund the program has been raided for other state programs.”

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.