Policy Watch

Firearms fix

Saving lives by stemming gun violence is the goal of a new law in Illinois that will strengthen background checks, shore up the state’s outdated gun-license system, and invest in mental health services for impacted communities.

The multi-pronged measure – passed with bipartisan support by the General Assembly -- was spurred by a fatal 2019 mass shooting in Aurora that revealed failings in the state’s Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card system. Five people were killed and six wounded by a warehouse worker whose firearms should have been taken away after his FOID card was revoked.

The law also is intended to solve months-long delays in the ability of the Illinois State Police to process FOID applications and renewals, made worse by a surge in gun-buying through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law will:

  • Expand background checks to all gun sales, including all private, person-to-person sales – which Gov. J.B. Pritzker said would close “a deadly loophole” when he signed the measure into law.
  • Create a stolen-gun database
  • Require the Illinois State Police to monitor state and federal databases for prohibited gun buyers
  • Reinforce and streamline the FOID system by encouraging gun buyers to submit fingerprints through reduced application fees and automatic renewals, among other updates

The law was rooted in evidence-based recommendations for reducing gun violence in Illinois by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy. The recommendations were included in a report commissioned by the Foundation.

The legislation also directs the ISP to seek federal funds to assist with improvements to the FOID process, one of several recommendations in an op-ed column by Tim Daly, director of the Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform program.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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