CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you're still waiting on your firearm ID card or concealed carry license from the state of Illinois, you're not alone. New complaints have come in from residents who say they applied for their firearm credentials months ago and are still waiting.
The problem predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but complaints continue to roll in. One Chicago man said the recent carjackings have made him even more concerned about being unarmed. He's demanding the state fix what he calls a broken system.
"I feel extremely unsafe every time I walk out of my house," said Terrence Thrower.
Thrower said he lost his wallet last year, which contained his Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card, as well as his concealed carry license (CCL).
He thought applying for replacements would be easy, but more than eight months later he said he's still waiting. As a result, he's unable to legally carry or use his firearm.
"It's scary, because I feel like I can't protect myself or my family," he said. "My wife and I, we have a newborn baby. With such a high rise in carjackings, I feel like I can't leave the house without my firearm and feel safe."
Thrower, who lives in Beverly, is among dozens of people who have reached out to the ABC7 I-Team to report months-long waits for the FOID cards or concealed carry licenses.
David Howley, in Arlington Heights, said he applied for his FOID card in July 2020.
"So as of today, that would be 191 days and 156 work days," he said. "It's gotten to the point of almost being ridiculous, the length of time."
Wei Zheng said she just wants to be able to protect her family.
"After eight months I'm still waiting," Zheng said. "I feel really helpless and upset."
In Illinois, firearm credentials are handled by Illinois State Police. Application delays within ISP were an issue before the pandemic. In a Dec. 9 press conference, Illinois governor JB Pritzker blamed the previous administration, claiming firearms service funds were depleted and there were no plans at that time to replenish funding or expand staffing.
"When I came into office in 2019, we stopped sweeping that fund. ISP Initiated a hiring plan. We certainly want to bring down that backlog," the governor said at the time.
Pritzker also pointed to a surge in FOID card applications last year, with two spikes in 2020: one in March, the other in June.
"It just exacerbated the backlog that already existed that ISP is attempting to whittle down," Pritzker said in December.
But some Illinois House Republicans argue the current system isn't working, and said they've received hundreds of complaints from their constituents who haven't been able to exercise their Second Amendment right in months.
"If my father-in-law from Ohio comes to visit to go hunting, he can go in and buy ammunition without a FOID card. All he has to do is show that he's not from Illinois. So we are second class citizens in our own state," said Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (IL-110th). "We need to suspend the FOID system until we can get it under control."
Illinois State Police said with the help of staffing increases and new technology upgrades, the numbers are slowly but steadily improving.
But residents like Thrower question if the measures the state is taking are enough to fix the problem. His greatest fear is not being able to defend himself if he ever has to.
"God forbid something happen, or I decided to carry without having this card in my possession. Best believe they're going to charge me with something," he said. "It's frustrating, it's extremely frustrating."
Illinois State Police said they have hired 25 additional analysts since March 2020 with an additional seven to start in March 2021. Meanwhile, House Republicans argue that if Gov. Pritzker can't get a handle on the massive delays, the legislature will.