Chicago, IL – A federal lawsuit filed against the Illinois State Police (ISP) on Friday alleged that the agency’s leadership has allowed firearms license applications to languish for months, effectively depriving citizens of their Second Amendment rights, while simultaneously defunding the Firearm Owners ID (FOID) program.
A FOID card is required in Illinois to legally possess a firearm. It’s also required to buy guns or ammunition.
The lawsuit, filed by the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), alleged that thousands of Illinois citizens who need to renew an expired FOID card or who have applied for one have been in limbo for months.
The fault lies in the administration of the program that issues the cards, according to Courthouse News.
The lawsuit, which specifically named ISP Director Brendan Kelly and Jessica Trame, the bureau chief of the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau, blamed the delays on the loss of $29.5 million in state police funds that were supposed to have been used to administer the program and conduct background checks.
The suit claimed ISP “has swept or transferred funds totaling more than $29,500,000.00 from the State Police Firearms Services Fund, the State Police Operations Assistance Fund, and the State Police Services Fund away from these funds and into other accounts.”
“The money was to be used for three purposes: administration of the Firearm Owners Identification Card (“FOID Card Act”), background checks for firearm-related services, and concealed carry licensing pursuant to the Firearms Concealed Carry Act (“FCCA”),” the complaint read. “Instead, the more than $29,500,000.00 has been subject to interfund transfers which are ostensibly to be repaid but which have not been, or swept into other accounts without an obligation to reimburse the funds at all.”
The Second Amendment organizations that filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division did so on behalf of two Illinois residents whom they said have been denied their constitutional rights.
“The effect of this has been a systematic slowdown and sometimes halt of processing of applications and appeals of the FOID Card Act,” the lawsuit said. “Applicants and appellants spend days on the phone attempting to reach someone at the [Illinois State Police] with no success. In the unlikely event that a person answers, the applicant/appellant is usually told only that their case is under review.”
While renewals and first-time applicants might have to wait for months to get a FOID, anything more complicated – such as a reinstatement after a prior revocation or an appeal – can take literally years, according to the lawsuit.
The suit said applicants “quickly find their appeals sucked into a black hole from which escape comes, if at all, with an interminable wait.”
The state has no legal deadline to respond to an appeal, Courthouse News reported.
The lawsuit explained that one of the complainants, 47-year-old Ryan Thomas, had a FOID and a Concealed Carry License (CCL) in Illinois that he was required to forfeit when he moved to Texas in November of 2015.
Thomas moved back to Illinois to be near his children in November of 2017, before either the FOID or the CCL had actually expired, and attempted to get his cards back, according to the lawsuit.
“After many attempts to reach someone at the Illinois State Police by telephone, and complying with the FOID appeal reinstatement process listed on the ISP’s website, and even having family members to write letters to the ISP on Thomas’ behalf, the ISP never followed up with any correspondence or other communication method. Thomas’ FOID and CCL statuses are still listed as “revoked” on the ISP website, and the ISP still does not answer telephone calls,” the suit said.
The lawsuit asked the court to order the ISP to issue cards to the citizens named in the complaint, and to award them monetary damages.