Here’s another reason why people like Gary Martin were able to purchase a gun and commit a mass killing when he shouldn’t have been able to purchase one in the first place: he was among 10,000 people whose FOID card was revoked. That’s not counting numerous other glitches in the system that allowed a man convicted in 1995 of stabbing a woman to purchase a .40 caliber handgun.
Illinois requires an FOID card (Firearms Owner Identification Card). An article in the Chicago Tribune reported that of the 2,285,990 active FOID cards and 325,187 active concealed carry licensees, only 126,599 actually submitted fingerprints to obtain it. Fingerprints are not required for an FOID card in Illinois. Add to that the fact that in 2013, it was learned that only about 25% of felony convictions were ever entered into the NICS system, and you have a recipe for failure at every angle.
Fingerprints are the engine that runs NICS. No fingerprints, no proper tracking of arrests or dispositions. It’s the way the system works… and one reason why background checks are totally worthless for stopping gun violence. Not everyone who is placed on a mental hold is fingerprinted. And sometimes even physical arrests get missed from human error. Human error is almost impossible to fix.
The next problem mentioned in the Chicago Tribune article: people who ignored the revocation
After learning of the omission in Martin’s background check, ISP said it notified both Martin and the Aurora Police Department in April 2014 that he was no longer able to possess a gun. He was given 48 hours to find a qualified owner for his weapon or relinquish it to local authorities, as well as submit a document called the Firearm Disposition Record to Aurora police.
Aurora officials say they have no record of receiving ISP’s revocation notice and, even if they did, the department had no legal obligation to confiscate the gun. State law, however, does allow local law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to retrieve a revoked FOID holder’s weapons.
Illinois State Police does not have copies of revocation notices sent to local police departments in 2014 because the agency only preserved those records for three years, according to the statement.
State police said an “exhaustive search” failed to turn up Martin’s returned FOID card or document detailing how he had relinquished his handgun. It’s an unsurprising result, given the vast majority people ignore their revocation notices, state statistics show.
In 2018, 10,818 FOID cards were revoked, according to state police. Only 2,616 Firearm Disposition Records were returned — meaning more than 75 percent of those with revoked licenses ignored the order.
Here’s the bottom line: law enforcement has only so many resources, and following up on a mandated paperwork issue is not a priority. It wouldn’t matter if there were red flag laws, or any number of laws stacked on top of already deep gun control laws, the 10,000 or so people who ignored a letter probably aren’t at the top of the priority list.
Sheriff Tom Dart, Cook County, has proposed creating special police units to confiscate the guns of people whose gun licenses have been revoked. Unfortunately, that is a plan that places law enforcement in even more jeopardy. Whether people ignored the revocation or simply had no idea of it could lend itself to some horrific outcomes.
Remember: the more laws created, the more snarl that comes with them. But it’s also true that actually enforcing existing laws would make the excessive ones called for by anti-gun groups completely unnecessary.