June 17, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Karina’s Bill a smart, but small, step toward solving a mounting FOID problem

Sometimes a law has to be on the books for a bit before a fair assessment of its efficacy.

In other instances, the writing is on the wall before the governor puts pen to paper.

Advocates for domestic violence victims are pushing hard for lawmakers to adopt “Karina’s Bill.” Contained in House Bill 4469 and Senate Bill 2633, the proposal bears the name of Karina Gonzalez, a woman fatally shot by her estranged husband despite an order of protection, which triggered the suspension of his Firearm Owner Identification card on paper – not in practice.

Under the plan, judges who grant emergency protective orders also would issue search warrants allowing police to seize guns and could require that process to be completed within 96 hours.

It’s a politically popular idea addressing a demonstrated concern, but the practical implications are unfortunately insufficient. While advocates pushed for passage in Springfield, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart released a report showing gun possession by FOID holders accused of domestic violence is only one part of a widespread challenge.

The 30-page report (tinyurl.com/ILgunrevocation) is titled “A Firearm Regulation Crisis: Tens of Thousands of Illinoisians with Revoked Gun Permits Have Failed to Transfer Their Firearms.” The analysis shows some 84,000 Illinoisans – those with felony convictions, severe mental illness or credibly accused of threatening harm – still have guns.

“Illinois sets aside just approximately $2 million for revocation enforcement statewide,” according to the report, “whereas some estimates indicate a meaningful initiative would require $10 to $20 million to cover the police services needed to address a mounting backlog years in the making.”

Karina’s Bill would tighten a loophole and may well prevent tragedies, realities that justify legislative action. However, passing this plan cannot be considered significant in the context of government inefficiency that allows a known problem to not only perpetuate but expound.

Dart’s report shows 20,998 noncompliant protective order FOID revocations. Roughly 75% of the backlog stems from other disqualifications. Each creates the potential for disaster.

There is a literal human cost to the state’s inability to effectively administer the FOID program. It’s not just revocations but also backlogs with background checks for applications and renewals. Every new requirement must find its place in line, both in the context of gun regulations and the macro obligations of criminal justice.

Fully funding FOID enforcement efforts might not be the complete solution, but we’ll certainly never know without at least trying. What we do know is to be wary of any elected official who acts as if addressing one concern is a meaningful accomplishment without also acknowledging all the unfinished work.

Dart’s report calls for “additional mechanisms to enforce compliance.” Karina’s Bill offers such steps, but the journey’s end remains a distant goal.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on X @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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 sholland@shawmedia.com.