Unhappy anniversary: Year after Aurora mass shooting, Illinois State Police still battle revoked FOID cards

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nearly one year after the Aurora factory mass shooting by a man who shouldn't have been armed, Illinois state police officials say they have made progress in new efforts to retrieve illegally possessed guns, but not enough.

Despite some forward progress, state police director Brendon Kelly on Thursday said the agency still needs a lot more money and manpower to track down people who may still have guns despite their Firearm Owner Identification Card being revoked.

At a news conference in Springfield, Kelly pushed legislation now in the Illinois Senate that would tack fees onto FOID card applications and renewals and provide millions of dollars to the ISP for gun card investigation and enforcement.

The ABC7 I-Team focused attention on this issue after Gary Martin killed five of his ex-co-workers at the Henry Pratt Company and wounded six others on February 15, 2019.

Because Martin was a convicted felon he wasn't entitled to own a gun in Illinois. But an Illinois FOID background check failed to find any record of his aggravated assault conviction in Mississippi in 1995. Years later, when he tried to get a concealed weapons permit, the felony was flagged and his FOID card revoked. But as in thousands of other cases, there was no mechanism in place for law enforcement to actually get Martin's FOID card back, or his guns.

Following the Aurora attack, the I-Team reported that there were more than 10,000 revoked FOID cards in Illinois that hadn't been checked out by police across the state.

Since then, ISP director Kelly on Thursday said progress has been made-with state police doubling down on FOID enforcement efforts. Kelly said that there were twice as many "firearm dispositions" carried out by state police in 2019 as in the previous year. That still leaves thousands of gun owners with revoked FOID cards still out there.

"Without additional resources for both state and local law enforcement to ensure illegal firearms are not possessed by potentially dangerous individuals, the odds still remain too high that more tragedies will occur," Kelly said. "The victims and survivors of Aurora deserve our honesty and best efforts."

Kelly pitched for support of Senate bill 1966 which would allow new fees on top of the $10 FOID card charge that would go to state police. The legislation would also allow authorities to collect the fingerprints of FOID card holders, that Kelly suggests would make another Aurora-style situation less likely.

"The question for us is how do we make sure a person who has a criminal record, that's connected to fingerprints, that they don't have access to a firearm...fingerprints catch bad guys."

It is such a problem in Cook County that the sheriff's department has a dedicated gun team-that we rode with last year as they swept down on revoked gun licensees.

A bill similar to that one failed in the state house last spring after intense pressure from gun owners and gun organizations. Thursday the head of the Illinois State Rifle Association is promising a similar fight on the Senate bill, telling the I-Team that the state police department doesn't need more money and shouldn't be given the right to take fingerprints from law abiding gun owners.
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