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New audit shows major flaws in FOID system during 2018, 2019

MGN-IllinoisFOID-08022021

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois State Police say they have improved the backlog of FOID card and concealed carry license applications. The Illinois Auditor General released a new audit this week surrounding the same system during 2018 and 2019.

This report confirms what many thought for a while - the FOID system had many issues long before the pandemic started.

The Capitol Bureau had a sit-down interview with Auditor General Frank Mautino Friday morning. Mautino said the big takeaway for most should be the outdated system with manual verification.

His audit team recommended ISP should reduce their manual verification and checks of application information. They also suggested the agency reduce any overlapping work on applications to increase efficiency.

"The backlog caused them to start instead of on day one of receipt, they started on day 19 of a 30-day window," Mautino said. "And that's going to push things back because of the system itself."

Timeliness of processing applications

State law requires ISP to process new FOID applications within 30 days. State police have 60 days to review applications for FOID renewals. Concealed carry licenses go through a 90-day period. Although, it could take an extra 30 days if applicants didn't give their fingerprints.

However, each application goes through a 40 step process.

"So, if you're carrying both a FOID card and a concealed carry card, then the manual portion of this, that could be done with data match, causes a delay in itself," Mautino said.

The Auditor General says ISP should approve or deny all FOID and CCL applications within the required timeframes. Look at the timeliness for FOID applications during 2018 and 2019.

This audit found state police didn't process 22.9% of FOID applications in a timely manner during 2019. But, the delay was even worse for concealed carry licenses. Nearly 50% of CCL applications were delayed in 2019.

Having more staff and stronger checks on revoked licenses

Mautino said having more staff at that time could have prevented this issue. He also said Illinois had plenty of time to prepare for a surge of renewal applications.

"You could forsee that an additional 100,000 people were going to have to renew. You know, your Google calendar would've told you that," Mautino added.

State police told the auditor general's team that Firearm Services Bureau saw a peak in backlogged FOID applications in November 2020 with nearly 139,000 applications. However, that number dropped to under 48,000 backlogged applications by August 31 of this year. However, ISP also admitted they struggled to meet the processing deadlines for applications.

"Average processing times has dropped from 205 days in July of 2021 to less than 190 days in
September of 2021," ISP stated in response to the audit.

The auditing team says ISP should also work closely with local law enforcement to make certain that revoked FOIDs and concealed carry licenses are returned to the department.

"We saw some cases where that tragically did not happen just because of a system that couldn't pick up that or wasn't enforced," Mautino said.

Mautino said many of these issues were address in the FOID modernization proposal Gov. JB Pritzker recently signed into law. Still, it will take time to implement the changes and put extra state funding into place.

State police released updated data this week to show the FOID and CCL backlog has improved over the last year. ISP noted they reduced the renewal backlog by 89%. Meanwhile, the backlog for new applicants was reduced by 75%.

However, Illinois State Police declined multiple requests for an interview on the audit.

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Mike Miletich

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