Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Legislative action doesn’t always represent the finish line

A decent rule of thumb when evaluating legislative efficacy is to focus on results, not actions.

Making a law is one thing, seeing the effects of its implementation is another, not to mention the matter of passing judicial review.

Some actions, while technically laws, generally stipulate how government operates itself. Often this involves creating a task force responsible for producing a study and perhaps recommendations for further action. It’s impossible to complete the journey without the initial steps, but we don’t celebrate everyone who simply starts the marathon. There are too many examples of task forces that missed reporting deadlines or generated proposals with no chance of passage.

Scott T. Holland

That brings us to the Illinois Gun Trafficking Information Act, effective Jan. 18, 2019, which required state police “to provide key information, on a regular and ongoing basis, related to firearms used in the commission of crimes in Illinois,” according to a letter ISP Director Brendan Kelly submitted last month.

Details to be incorporated included deaths, locations, which Federal Firearms Licensee sold the guns, and more. However, the report continued, “the ISP has been unable to identify a comprehensive data collection tool capable of the detailed data capture” the law mandates.

Kelly listed seven familiar law enforcement data tools: National Incident-Based Reporting System, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, Commanding Operational Policing Strategies, Traffic and Criminal Software, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and two of ISP’s own divisions: criminal investigation and patrol operations.

“All Illinois law enforcement agencies, including the ISP, utilize diverse records management; report writing; and evidence management systems, resulting in the collection of inconsistent, inaccurate, or non-translatable data,” the report stated. “The lack of a centralized and uniform data collection tool for use by all Illinois law enforcement agencies has made the collection and reporting of all mandated information unattainable.”

Requiring these reports was only part of the larger law, and the failure here doesn’t demonstrate the entire effort was fruitless. Although the February report does report the numbers ISP was able to collect – such as 15,258 Firearm Owner Identification application denials in 2022, and another 12,724 revocations – it also makes clear more work needs to be done to empower state police to do the job lawmakers required.

One complicating factor is the revolving door nature of General Assembly seats, meaning new members must follow up on old priorities. Another is the practical resistance to lawmakers themselves creating “a comprehensive data collection tool,” but it’s just as impractical to assume the entire law enforcement community can easily coalesce around a legislative paperwork demand.

The report is optimistic about future developments, but if lawmakers want to show they’ve actually done something, they must help carry the goal across the finish line.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at