SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - State lawmakers could require legal gun owners to go through background checks for all firearm purchases.
House Democrats passed their plan to block illegal ownership and fix the FOID card system Saturday.
It also includes a one-time fingerprint check to verify the FOID card holder's identity. The measure also makes the FOID electronic so gun owners could have it on their cell phones or laptop.
Sponsor Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia) explained Democrats have worked on the massive reform plan since the 2019 Aurora warehouse shooting. She argues the six people killed that day would still be alive if the proposal were law when it took place.
"This bill is not a magic fix for the gun violence that plagues our state and our nation," Hirschauer said. "It is however a crucially important step that we as legislators can take right now to prevent mass tragedies and everyday gun violence and keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people."
The Democrat noted 2.2 million people have applications for FOID cards right now. Republicans quickly attacked the idea that all of those legal gun owners would have to submit a fingerprint.
An adversarial position
"There are many many parts of this bill that are good," said Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur). "But when you start putting in poison pills - fingerprints, transfers between family members that have to go through the State Police...it will cause a lot of acrimony in this state. It will cause a lot of acrimony in this building. If we want to really address the problems, we should address the problems with FOID cards and concealed carry licenses."
Caulkins wants the state to make it easier to renew the licenses or change their address for the FOID card. He says the other portions of the bill put legal gun owners in an adversarial position.
The proposal currently drops the length of time FOID cards stay valid from 10 years to five years. It also doubles the renewal fee to $20. Yet, Hirschauer explained the Senate should pass an amendment bringing the cost back down to $10 and leaving the life span at 10 years.
"We are making our own citizens second-class citizens in their own state," said Rep. CD Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville). "I am with you on trying to figure out a way to get rid of gun violence. But I just want to point out that this is not the way. It just hinders our citizens' ability to exercise these rights."
Closing gun law loopholes
Hirschauer advocated for similar legislation in 2019 as a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. At that time, Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) led the fight to eliminate loopholes in existing gun laws. She told Republicans everyone expects gun lobbyists to file suit against the proposal if it becomes law. Willis emphasized that it already happens because people believe FOID cards are unconstitutional.
"It's going to stop people right at the very beginning that should not be getting those FOID cards, that should not have access to guns at the very beginning," Willis explained. "If we can verify who they are through a national database through a fingerprint, we're going to be able to do that."
Willis also responded to complaints about the fingerprint requirement by noting many jobs now have people submit them before starting. She gave teachers and lawyers as examples of people with the prints on file.
The legislation barely passed through the House on a partisan 60-50 vote. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
"Protecting loved ones from gun violence is a visceral issue that connects with people across the state, especially parents," said House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch. "I'm proud to support Rep. Hirschauer's bill because it offers proven measures that will keep kids and families safe. This is a straightforward proposal to address gun violence given the decades-long stalemate at the federal level, and I hope my Senate colleagues give it strong consideration."