After considerable debate and many questions that were left unanswered, the so-called “Fix the FOID” bill (House Bill 562) was approved in the state Senate and House this spring and sent to the governor. If Gov. JB Pritzker truly is concerned about rampant gun violence in Chicago and other Illinois cities, he will veto this bill, and direct lawmakers to write legislation that actually addresses gun violence.
HB 562 does nothing to curb gun violence. It doesn’t do anything to increase penalties on repeat offenders who commit gun crimes, or gun violence perpetrated by people who aren’t even eligible for a FOID card. It does not tackle out-of-control gang violence in Illinois’ largest city, or put procedures in place to prevent those intent on violating current law from accessing firearms illegally. Instead, like so many other gun control bills passed in the General Assembly, HB 562 places new restrictions on lawful gun owners who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Supporters of HB 562 hail it as commonsense gun control that will save lives. As a benefit to gun enthusiasts, they point to provisions in the bill that allow individuals to voluntarily offer their fingerprints in exchange for “automatic” renewal of their FOID cards and concealed carry licenses (CCL). When asked during the bill debate, the sponsor could not articulate how automatic renewal would work. He said those details will be hashed out during the rule-making process. On an issue as important as gun rights, should the General Assembly really be abdicating its responsibility to approve clearly defined legislation, with processes for implementation articulated within the actual bill? I believe the answer is no.
Additionally, these supposed expedited renewal processes won’t be in place for some time, which does nothing to fix the current broken FOID and CCL systems and the gigantic backlog of FOID card applications and renewals. Instead, HB 562 represents a new, untried and rather complex layer of new mandates, rule-making and other processes on top of an already overburdened and antiquated FOID card and CCL system.
Critics of HB 562 are right to view the voluntary fingerprinting provision as a stepping stone to mandated fingerprints in the near future, and are correct when they describe the bill as just another effort by the majority to assault Illinoisans’ Second Amendment rights. Maybe the better course of action would be to protect law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights by repealing the FOID card and actually prosecuting violent offenders to the fullest extent under existing state and federal laws.
When a local rapper is shot 64 times walking out of Cook County jail, the problem isn’t the lack of paperwork for private transfers of gun sales. And when we read that 108 people were shot – 17 of them fatally – over Independence Day weekend in Chicago, the problem isn’t the lack of voluntary fingerprinting of those who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Until the majority party gets serious about going after the root causes of gun violence in our state, Chicago will continue to monopolize headlines about gun-related deaths.
Pritzker has an opportunity to show some real leadership on this issue. The question is, will he veto HB 562 and demand a real legislative solution to gun and gang violence, or will he sign yet another gun control bill that has no hope of addressing gun violence in our state?
• Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, is state senator for the 32nd Senate District of Illinois.