(The Center Square) – Illinoisans would be required to provide fingerprints if they want to be in legal compliance with the state’s Firearm Owner Identification card law in a bill that passed the Illinois House Saturday.

Opponents expect lawsuits if the measure is enacted.

Illinois law requires gun owners to have a Firearm Owner Identification card to legally own and purchase firearms or ammunition. Illinois is one of four states that requires a state-issued firearm permit for ownership and the only state in the region that requires a permit to own or purchase.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a backlog of FOID card applications in the tens of thousands. People have been waiting months, if not a full year or longer, for the FOID applications to be renewed.

Illinois State Police have filed emergency rules that allow expired FOID cards to be valid, but that does not provide relief to those who may be first-time FOID applicants who are waiting months for approval in order to buy or own guns or ammo.

With just two days left until the end of the spring session, House Bill 1091 as amended passed the House late Saturday afternoon with just 60 yes votes. There was bipartisan opposition to the bill with 50 Representatives voting against, including eight Democrats.

Sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, said the measure streamlines various aspects of the FOID system, by combining it with the Concealed Carry Permit and allowing ISP to work with the Secretary of State’s office on address verification, among other changes.

“It would require one-time fingerprinting,” Hirschauer said. “So if you’re a new applicant you’ll get a fingerprint when you’re new. If you already have a FOID card and haven’t submitted a fingerprint, you would submit a fingerprint upon your reapplication.”

Hirschauer said there are around 2.2 million FOID card applicants across the state and defended the fingerprint mandate saying around a 30% of professional jobs require fingerprints of employees and those could be shared with Illinois State Police.

“So now we can say 1.5 million people would still have to do it, that’s still quite of a demand on people who are law-abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong and are just trying to exercise a constitutional right,” said state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego.

He said there’ll be lawsuits if the bill is enacted.

“For me to practice law, or for somebody else to teach, that is not a fundamental constitutional right,” said state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock. “Owning a firearm is enshrined in our constitution. It’s a fundamental liberty that we enjoy because we are American and requiring us to make fingerprints available so that we can do that, I’ll be honest with you, I think that there is an argument there that it could be also a Fourth Amendment violation on my right against unreasonable searches and seizure.”

After the measure narrowly passed, state Rep. Frances Hurley, D-Chicago, filed a motion to reconsider, keeping the measure form advancing to the Senate.

The spring session ends on May 31.

There are around a dozen lawsuits challenging the state’s gun laws in state and federal courts.

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.