Illinois State Police will begin using a new voice-over-internet-protocol system (an automated phone system) next year to improve long waits for Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and concealed carry license (CCL) applications.
The Illinois State Police said in a Nov. 12 Facebook post it receives 25,000 FOID card applications per month and more than 15,500 calls per week regarding FOID and CCL applications and renewals. Reportedly, only five staff members are assigned to process FOID card and CCL applications and renewals, which has led to long waits.
The new call-handling system being implemented in 2020 should allow callers to renew a FOID card or CCL without speaking to an agent, provided the applicant’s address has not changed. Callers will also be able to request a call back if they need further assistance than the automated system provides.
Illinois residents must meet several requirements to buy a firearm and further requirements to carry concealed.
First, residents must obtain a FOID card to purchase or possess firearms and ammunition. The FOID card requires a color photograph and costs $10, plus payment processing fees. The card, good for 10 years, is issued after a background check. (Additionally, FOID card holders must still undergo background checks to purchase a firearm.)
Illinois further requires a CCL to carry concealed. To qualify, state residents must possess a valid FOID card, take 16 hours of training (pricing set by providers), and pay $150, plus processing fees. Applicants also must submit another photograph and may submit fingerprints to expedite the process, with pricing for both set by providers. The CCL is valid for five years after issuance, and a three-hour training course must be taken to renew. If the CCL expires before renewal is requested, a CCL holder must begin the process again, including taking the 16-hour initial training again. Expiration of the FOID card invalidates the CCL.
For both the FOID card and the CCL applications and renewals, citizens must use an online application on the Illinois State Police website or call police to get a paper version.
What often happens, gun shop owner Larry Pelcher told America’s 1st Freedom, is that potential gun owners who wish to conceal carry have nearly a year-long process to navigate:
- Apply for the FOID card
- Wait up to 120 days for the FOID to be issued (the cards are supposed to only take 30 days to be issued)
- Take 16 hours of training
- Apply for the CCL
- Wait another 90 to 120 days for the CCL license to be issued
Comments on the Illinois State Police’s Facebook post said that CCLs are taking much longer to be issued for initial applications and renewals than the 90 days it’s supposed to take if fingerprints are submitted or 120 days if not. One man said in Nov. his wife had been waiting since February.
Other comments complained that the police website was not user-friendly, and said if they needed to speak on the phone with someone about their application, they have been put on hold for long periods only to receive a message to call back another time.
“The biggest problem is for elderly folks who don’t have access to—or don’t have experience with—computers,” Valinda Rowe, a spokesperson for the non-profit group IllinoisCarry, told America’s 1st Freedom. “They have to rely on others to do it for them or help them through the process. So, then their FOID card expires while they're trying to figure it out. If that happens, they have to surrender the card and provide a firearm disposition list saying to whom they’ve distributed their firearms.”
Rowe noted that when applicants receive an expiration notice for either their FOID card or CCL, a notice is simultaneously sent to local law enforcement as well. She said she has heard that police are knocking on residents’ door to remind them their card has expired and ensure they have no firearms. If residents do not turn in their expired cards, warrants may be issued for their arrest. It is noteworthy that when it comes time for authorities to act on expirations and revocations, they act much more quickly than when issuing or renewing, according to residents’ online comments.
The new automated phone system is reportedly estimated to cost $750,000 for implementation and $10,000 monthly, which will be paid for via the State Police Firearm Services Fund.